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Tompkins County Names New Historian


During the Tuesday meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, Laura Johnson-Kelly was named Tompkins County Historian. The appointment of a municipal historian is required by New York State law for every municipality with over 400 residents. Johnson-Kelly’s appointment follows a search process held by the Tompkins County Administrator and the recent retirement of Carol Kammen, who served in the role since 2000.

Johnson-Kelly is retired from Cornell University where she served in several roles of museum curation, and is an archaeologist by-trade. She served as the Town of Ithaca’s historian from 2004-2015 and is currently a trustee at the History Center of Tompkins County. She received the Meritorious Service Award from the New York State Archaeological Association in 2019 for her leadership of the Finger Lakes Chapter and organization of annual state conferences – Johnson-Kelly is a past president of the Association’s Finger Lakes Chapter.

In her time in museum curation and municipal history, Johnson-Kelly has been lauded for efforts to increase outreach and programming for young students and the public. She has expressed interest in bolstering proactive outreach and programming efforts in her new role as Tompkins County Historian.

Upon accepting the appointment, Johnson-Kelly stated, “I’m honored and very excited to take on this role. Our County has such a rich and vibrant history, with so many stories just waiting to be told. We also have a thriving and collaborative community of historians, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with in my other roles.” Johnson-Kelly continued, “Thank you to the County Administrator and the Legislature for their investments in local history, this community is fortunate that we have leadership who value studying and preserving our history.”

County Administrator Lisa Holmes stated, “We’re very excited for Ms. Johnson-Kelly to begin in the role of County Historian. I look forward to the projects brought forth by her and the Historical Commission, I know there are many great things in the works.”

Legislator and member of the Tompkins County Historical Commission Michael Lane stated, “Ms. Johnson-Kelly has remarkable experience in the arenas of local history and archaeology. She also has a demonstrated commitment to public service, having served the Town of Ithaca and as a board member of our History Center. I’m delighted by her appointment and I look forward to working with her to expand our sense of history in Tompkins County.”

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