Session Spotlight: 2023 NY Statewide Preservation Conference



In the lead-up to the 2023 NY Statewide Preservation Conference, we’re spotlighting this year’s sessions and keynote, and providing resources to learn more ahead of (or after!) the Conference.  Friday’s first session is If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail: Preparing for Upcoming NYS Anniversaries. This guided panel discussion and Q&A session will explore upcoming anniversaries in New York State, including New York State Parks Centennial (2024), Erie Canal Bicentennial (1825), the United States 250th/Semiquincentennial (2026), and the 200th Commemoration of Gradual Manumission and the end of legal Slavery in New York (1827). Speakers will share information about anniversary topics and themes, opportunities for participation and support, and resources for planning. 

Sally Drake | Executive Director, Natural Heritage Trust
Devin Lander | New York State Historian
Jean McKay | Director of Communications and Outreach, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor
Lavada Nahon | Interpreter of African American History, OPRHP
Moderated by Cordell Reaves | Coordinator of Community Affairs, OPRHP

Session Prep Reading List

Learn about the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution:

From the Office of State History Website

From “A New York Minute in History” Podcast

From New York History journal

Plus, follow Devin Lander at @NYSHistorian on Twitter!

Learn about the Erie Canalway Bicentennial:

From Erie Canalway National Heritage Center

Learn about the end of legal Slavery in New York State:

From Cornell University Press

From the New York Historical Society Museum & Library


Sally Drake is the Executive Director of the Natural Heritage Trust (Trust). Sally was appointed to this position by the Board of Directors in October 2020. The Executive Director serves under the direction of, and is accountable to, the Board of the Trust. Sally is responsible for directing all aspects of the Trust’s operations, fundraising and programs.

Sally has over two decades of public sector experience, with thirteen years at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation where she served as Director of Community Relations.  In that role, she developed and implemented a variety of programmatic and policy initiatives to engage the communities served by State Parks and welcome new and underserved visitors to the State Park system. Among the programs she launched was the Connect Kids to Parks Field Trip Grant Program which has served over 300,000 youth; the free Learn-to-Swim program which has taught thousands of children to swim at state parks; and together with partner Parks & Trails New York, she oversaw the agency’s implementation of the state’s largest state park volunteer event, I Love My Park Day. At State Parks, Sally worked to leverage private funding to support new programs, strengthen outreach and engage diverse and inclusive partners in communities throughout the state.

Sally received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bard College in 1995 and a Master of Art in Public Policy from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the State University of New York, Albany in 1997.

Devin Lander is New York’s 16th State Historian and Head of Museum Chartering for the State Education Department.  Previous to being named State Historian, he was the Executive Director of the Museum Association of New York (MANY) and worked as Deputy Legislative and Policy Director for the Chair of the New York State Assembly’s Tourism, Arts, Parks and Sports Development and Governmental Operations Committees.  He holds a BA in History from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and a MA in Public History from the University at Albany where he is currently completing work on his PhD.  Devin is also co-host of the award-winning podcast A New York Minute in History produced by WAMC-Northeast Public Radio and co-editor of the New York History journal published by Cornell University Press.  He was elected as a New York Academy of History Fellow in 2020.

Jean Mackay has served as the Director of Communications and Outreach for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor since 2007. She works collaboratively with federal, state, and local agencies and organizations throughout the 500-mile-long National Heritage Corridor to preserve canal heritage, promote tourism, and foster vibrant communities along the waterway. Jean is responsible for developing and implementing communications, marketing, and special programs. Jean formerly worked as Director of Education for Audubon International. She holds a MS in Environmental Education from Leslie University.

Lavada Nahon is the Interpreter of African American History for NYS OPRHP-Bureau of Historic Sites; and a culinary historian focused on the 17th – 19th centuries, mid-Atlantic region, with an emphasis on the work of enslaved cooks in the homes of the elite class. She is also a generalist in New York African American history 19th through 20th century. She has 20 plus years of public history experience working with a variety of historic sites, societies, and museums across the tri-state region. Lavada has developed educational programs, after-school programs, lectures and tours, period presentations, and historic dinners for sites ranging from the New York Historical Society, Albany Institute of Art and History, Fraunces Tavern, Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, Johnson Hall, many more. She worked as a museum associate and educator for Historic Hudson Valley for twelve years at Van Cortlandt Manor and Philipsburg Manor Upper Mills, and as a production coordinator on their special events team for three.  Her mission is to bring history to life by giving presence to the Africans and people of African descent enslaved and free in the New Netherland/New York in whatever way possible.

Cordell Reaves is the Coordinator of Community Affairs at the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation where he works closely with New York State historic sites to engage the public and tell more complete and inclusive stories. He has over 20 years of experience working with museums, historic sites, and tourism professionals on cultural heritage projects, including ongoing work with the Kingdom of the Netherlands to explore and promote New York State’s significant Dutch connections. With a Master of Arts degree from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies, he is a seasoned researcher of New York history who has focused on the early Dutch period, colonial slavery, the Underground Railroad, the anti-slavery movement, and the Great Migration. Cordell has been recognized for his work through awards such as the Outstanding Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Award from the State University of New York at Oneonta, the Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Service in New York History from The New York Academy of History, and the Huttleston Distinguished Service Award from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. He currently sits on the advisory board for the Historic House Trust of New York City. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Troy, New York.


Session Spotlight: 2023 NY Statewide Preservation Conference