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New York State Parks welcomes interpreter of African American history

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Thu, Jan 30th 2020 03:30 pm

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced noted culinary historian, interpreter and editor Lavada Nahon has joined the bureau of historic sites staff as the Interpreter of African American history.

A press release noted, “Lavada has worked as an independent contractor at a variety of state historic sites and other museums. She has a wealth of experience interpreting the lives of free and enslaved African Americans across the mid-Atlantic region, with an emphasis on the work of enslaved cooks in the homes of the elite class. Her expertise around cooking and dining spans the 17-19th centuries and cuts across cultures, encompassing Dutch, British, French and African traditions.”

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “Lavada’s immense experience will be instrumental to our agency’s goal of developing interpretative programs and displays that continue to educate and connect visitors to the past while highlighting untold stories across all ethnic and social backgrounds.”

Over the past two decades, Nahon has worked with a variety of historic sites, societies and museums. She has cooked on a variety of historic hearths (many of which are no longer in use), 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, Dyckman Farm House Museum, Johnson Hall and Fraunces Tavern Museum.

She worked as a museum associate and educator for Historic Hudson Valley for 12 years at Van Cortlandt Manor and Philipsburg Manor Upper Mills, and as a production coordinator for their special events team. Currently, she is on the reinterpretation team for Dey Mansion in Wayne, New Jersey, the home of the Passaic County Historical Society. She is also working with several other historic sites to give presence to the Africans once enslaved on their properties. 

“My love of history came from my love of reading,” Nahon said. “My initial pleasure in reading stories and novels made me curious about the times and places in which the stories were set. The library gave me not only the stories, but all sorts of books to answer any questions I had about any particular people, time or place – including cookbooks, which I would read like any other book, although I didn’t cook from them very often, a habit I still have.”

State Parks added, “Lavada’s experience and depth of knowledge will greatly expand and improve our ability to serve the state historic sites and the visiting public.

“In her new position, Lavada will be engaged in all aspects of our work supporting the efforts of the state historic sites; delivering programs, researching content and leading outreach efforts. Her passion for history will be a driving force in our efforts to share complete and inclusive history with the public.”

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