Carol Kammen is the Tompkins County Historian. She is the author of Glorious to View, Part & Apart, and First Person Cornell, and she’s written essays for The Ithaca Journal since 1978. She has also taught at Ithaca High School, TC3, and Cornell University.
What made you want to publish in the anthology?
Jack Hopper, one of the editors, asked me if I would write something for the anthology.
What made you want to submit this piece in particular?
I have thought a great deal about this area and about regionalism and about the arbitrary lines on the land that often turn out to be actual demarcations. I don’t mean rivers, which are physical boundaries, but rather how entering New York from Ohio we really do enter a different space, or going from New York into Pennsylvania, the land and the signs, the culture seen, the architecture is different. As it is different from what is now called Leatherstocking country over near Lake Otsego and here: different origins, different spacing on the land. I like the distinctiveness of place.
You’ve created the “One Day in Ithaca” write-in event, which you ran in 1988 and again in 2013. How much do you feel that Ithaca has changed in those 25 years?
We all can see the changes. Some are very positive, some not so much so. For many years, Ithacans talked about how to span the Inlet and now, after years of discussions, some disputes, many permissions and funding sought and gained, we have bridges that make the crossing easy. The area used to be called The Octopus, a word not much heard anymore. There are many changes but what the two studies showed, from 1988 and 2013 is that many people love this area and even if they leave they find a way to return; then there are many of us who come and do not leave.
What made you want to study the history of Tompkins County? Are there any central issues your research focuses on?
I have always been interested in discovering the people left out of history, so I have studied women of the past, people who come from various ethnicities and how those ethnic ties are kept going and what remains, the history of African Americans. This is not to discount the standard figures in history, the healthy, wealthy and wise, but to see who else is in the picture.
When did you start writing? What were your first writings like?
I have been writing essays for the Ithaca Journal since 1977.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to walk and to take drives through the area.
How can readers learn more about you? Do you have any social media accounts?
No media accounts, except for the Historian’s Page on the Tompkins County Website.