HudsonRiverValley.com has been recognized by Juggle as one of the top national heritage sites on the web. Below you'll find an interview with John Dennehey, Senior Planner for the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.
- What are some of the current online initiatives of the Hudson River Valley representatives?
The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area recently completed a month-long celebration titled “Landscape Gardens of the Hudson River Valley.” This celebration relied on our website to showcase the landscaped gardens of eleven historic sites throughout the region and provide information about events that were taking place.
Additionally, we have an ongoing feature that showcases our partnership with National Geographic. Through National Geographic’s interactive map of the Hudson River Valley, visitors can explore Henry Hudson’s 1609 arrival, early Dutch settlement, and explore today’s Hudson River. A 1614 map and video interviews are also provided.
Another initiative includes our online interactive trail maps. Working in combination with the Hudson River Valley Greenway (the management entity for the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area), this resources allows users to identify the location of designated Greenway trails and trail heads throughout the Hudson River Valley region.
The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area also maintains a website with its partners entitled “Teaching the Hudson Valley.” Launched in 2003, Teaching the Hudson Valley helps educators discover, appreciate, and share the region's natural, historic, and cultural treasures with children and youth by fostering collaboration among schools, museums, parks, historic sites, art galleries, libraries, and other groups. The website provides free K-12 lesson plans and grant information.
Further online outreach efforts include a Facebook page for the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area as well as a monthly electronic newsletter that includes information about our latest news, grant information, Hudson Valley trivia, and a calendar of events in addition to spotlights on communities and heritage sites
- How did you choose the themes representing the area in order to help interpret the individual heritage sites for visitors? How do these offer a larger perspective on the history of the area?
The themes of the heritage area were chosen for their ability to encompass the Heritage Area, its system of trails, the sites, and our programs. These themes were chosen because the Hudson River Valley has a unique contribution to these themes which have helped to shape our nation’s shared heritage.
By identifying common themes shared by heritage sites, a broader perspective of that theme is created. The perspective of a single heritage site on a theme tells a limited story, however the perspectives of multiple heritage sites telling their own perspectives of that same theme help to provide a deeper understanding of the entire store of the region.
- How has the Amtrak rail service become an important part of the heritage area experience? What does it offer passengers?
Amtrak rail service has been invaluable to the heritage area experience. The heritage of the Hudson River Valley region has been largely shaped by our transportation history and the “giants” of the rail industry: Erastus Corning and Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. The developments that took place in the Hudson Valley had a significant impact on the rest of our nation. Amtrak allows passengers to experience the Hudson River Valley from the same perspective that was shared by those in years past.
Today, Amtrak offers its passengers a unique and memorable experience on its passenger rail service between New York City’s Pennsylvania Station and the Capital District’s Albany-Rensselaer Station. Traveling along the eastern bank of the Hudson River, this route offers rare and magnificent views of some of the most significant state and national resources. This route is not only one of the most popular in the nation, but the most highly traveled route in New York State, attracting a diverse ridership
These factors allowed us to produce “Windows on History” in partnership with New York By Rail and I Love New York. Through narratives, historic depictions, and photos taken from the perspective of passengers on the train, this guide educates rail passengers traveling through the Hudson River Valley about the resources they see out their windows. Additionally, this guide provides information about the surrounding communities and historic sites located nearby as well as an account of transportation history in the region. As passengers learn more about the nationally-significant resources of the Hudson River Valley, they are encouraged to explore the region and take advantage of all it has to offer, thereby stimulating tourism and economic development.
- You list many heritage area sites to explore along the Hudson River – which of these are most popular and how do the destination sites spark interest in learning more its role in defining America?
While we don’t have attendance figures from all of the heritage sites, we do know which sites attract the most attention on our website. The sites which receive the highest number of website visits are those that are identified as “Absolutely Must See.” These Heritage Sites offer a trained staff, a full complement of visitor amenities, and are associated primarily with nationally-recognized figures and events. The names associated with these sites are often familiar even on a global level – Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Irving, and Gould.
As visitors learn more about these nationally-recognized figures, they learn more about how they influenced the Hudson River Valley and how the Hudson River Valley influenced them and us.
- What are some ways visitors can aid in the preservation and development of the heritage area?
The best way visitors can aid in the preservation and development of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area is to travel here and spend some time visiting us and learning about our unique natural and cultural resources. We also encourage visitors to arrive with their questions and strive to learn as much from us as they can. We also welcome donations and contributions that will allow us to continue our mission of promotion, interpretation, and conservation of our nationally-significant resources.
- How do you plan to use your blog to communicate with visitors to the heritage area? Why are their posts important for promoting the sites around the area?
The blog feature is a relatively new instrument for the Heritage Area. To date, we have not officially launched the blog, however we anticipate that this tool will give visitors and residents an opportunity to interact with the Heritage Area on a more personal level. Our overall goal is to remind everyone that this is our shared heritage and everyone has a stake in its promotion.
- How many people subscribe to your e-news service and what information is available through this service?
Produced in cooperation with the Hudson River Valley Greenway, our E-Newsletter has a distribution of approximately 2,000 people. The monthly e-newsletter allows us to keep everyone up to date on the latest news and developments occurring within the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. Additionally, we provide information on upcoming grant opportunities and events for the month as well as a community spotlight and a heritage site spotlight. Finally, we round things off with some trivia about the Hudson River Valley and some monthly tips for being more environmentally friendly (the Hudson Valley was the birthplace of the modern environmental movement!).
- What have you done to make the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area a recognizable brand on the Internet through your website and other off-line marketing strategies?
Our strategies have focused on a multiple level approach. The Heritage Area “brand” has become recognizable through our continued use of our logo on all projects that we have produced or have given grant funding for others to produce. Additionally, the development of signage throughout the region has helped residents and visitors become familiar with the fact that this region is an nationally-significant space. In addition to the logo, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area takes part in a number of initiatives and events throughout the year on the regional, state, national, and even international level. Whenever our logo appears, the website for the Heritage Area also appears. This has significantly improved our figures as more and more people are turning to our website as the premier source of heritage information for the region.
The development of a Facebook presence has also helped us reach a target demographic that had previously been ignored. Using Facebook “teasers” on our page allows for promotion of specific elements on the website. Users learn something interesting and then are guided to visits the website for more information. This has also been a great boost to our visibility.
Finally, our relationship with Heritage Sites and our partners has been a great asset. Just as their information is posted on our page, the National Heritage Area website and logo are displayed on their pages as well.
- What else would you like to share about the Hudson River Valley or your web portal?
Our website is constantly developing and changing as we introduce new programs, seasonal events, and special attractions. We avoid becoming “stale” by keeping things changing and giving visitors a reason to keep exploring the website and, in turn, the Hudson River Valley.