New York State Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Commission National Quincentenary Commission Files

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

The series consists of material created by or collected for the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission (1985-1992). The material was used by the Quincentenary’s New York State commissioner, Governor Mario Cuomo, during the planning of events nationwide. The series includes correspondence, reports, and other documents relating to the work of the national commission, and to the quincentenary events themselves. The bulk of the series documents the Quincentenary's Maritime Committee and the maritime events (Grand Regatta '92 and Operation Sail '92) held on the East Coast of the United States, especially those that occurred in New York Harbor.
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This collection description was enhanced as a part of Ventana al Pasado: Building a Latino/Hispanic Online Research Collection. The New York State Archives and Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños received funding for this project from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Administrative History

The national Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission was established by the U.S. Congress in 1985 (Public Law 98-375). It was mandated to create a “strengthened awareness of our common history and heritage as American peoples” by promoting and coordinating activities to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the voyages of discovery of Christopher Columbus.

To guide its work, the commission set forth a number of goals: to commemorate Columbus as visionary; to commemorate the “fact that Europeans and Africans of many origins predominate among the mix of people and cultures that arose in the New World in the wake of Columbus, with Spain taking the lead;” to commemorate the “fact that the native inhabitants of the New World also contributed important elements to the blend of cultures and peoples” and that the “transformation of America after 1492 involved real human costs as well as gains;” to promote the idea that the mix of Old and New World cultures “led the modern world towards republican and democratic government;” and to promote cooperative scientific activities emphasizing space science and exploration.

With the consent of Congress, New York Governor Mario Cuomo was appointed to the commission in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan. Cuomo appointed his wife Matilda to act as his official representative to the commission. By virtue of authorizing legislation, the commission was terminated in 1992; its final report was issued in 1993.

According to its 1993 final report, the quincentenary highlighted the Hispanic contributions of Old and New World cultures and the influences each had upon the other. As mentioned in the final report, the Quincentenary Commission called attention to the need to document the Spanish colonial past of the Americas, to translate the rich resources of Spanish archives, to preserve and interpret Spanish colonial sites in the United States, to support exhibitions and educational programs that emphasize Spanish colonial heritage and to support events that “bring together artists from both parts of our hemisphere.” In 1993 Puerto Rico played a special role in the quincentenary by commemorating Columbus’ second voyage to the New World in 1493 in which Columbus traveled to the modern-day U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Scope and Content Note

The New York State Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Commission used the National Quincentenary Commission files to maintain coordination with its national counterpart. The files include records that document the planning of quincentenary events nationwide.

The core document file includes material (press releases, reports, and executive orders and legislation) that defines the mission of the quincentenary, and describes in a general way the projects and events that were planned. Also included in the series are a curriculum guide for the quincentenary (B1F10); records from quincentenary planning meetings, attended by commissioners and held in Italy and Puerto Rico; and the 1993 “National quincentenary Commission Final Report” (B1F12). The correspondence file contains responses from other states to Governor Cuomo’s invitation to take part in the quincentenary commemoration.

The bulk of the series documents the quincentenary’s Maritime Committee and the maritime events (Grand Regatta ’92 and Operation Sail ’92) held on the East Coast of the United States, especially those that occurred in New York Harbor. Quincentenary event brochures, flyers, images, posters, schedules, and project proposals for these maritime events, as well as for Ameriflora ’92, held in Columbus, Ohio, can be found in these files.

Few of the records specifically address the initiatives to “document and celebrate America’s Spanish Colonial past,” even though both initiatives were prescribed by the commission during the event’s the planning stage. Nor do they document the impact of these initiatives on Hispanic history. The commission’s final report provides a general outline of its accomplishments. In this report, the Commission includes four addendums. One is from commission member Jayne H. Plank noting the importance of Puerto Rico and the “role it plays in the Western Hemisphere as conduit between English speaking peoples of North America and the Spanish speaking peoples of Central and South America.” Another, from John R. Herbert, Assistant Chief, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress, discusses efforts to survey and document the “Archives of Spain related to the Americas.”

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of the material.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series 18690 Event and activity planning files, 1991-1994, New York (State). Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Commission

Series 18688 Speech files, 1991-1993, New York (State). Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Commission

Series 18687 Meeting files, 1983-1993 (bulk 1990-1993), New York (State). Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Commission, all document the New York State Quincentenary Commission and its activities.

Other finding aids

A Spanish version of this finding aid is available.

Access Terms

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Detailed Description

Dates Contents Box Folder
1981-1984 Core Documents 1 1
1984-1992 Correspondence (includes 4 photos of Matilda Cuomo) 1 2
1987 Genoa, Italy: Commission Meeting, December 2-6, 1987 1 3
1993 San Juan, Puerto Rico: Commission Meeting, March 16, 1993 1 4
1987-1992 Maritime Committee 1 5
1987-1992 Grand Regatta ’92 (1 of 2) 1 6
1987-1992 Grand Regatta ’92 (2 of 2) 1 7
1986-1992 OpSail ’92 (1 of 2) (includes 4 photos of tall ships in New York Harbor) 1 8
1986-1992 OpSail ’92 (2 of 2) 1 9
1992 The Voyages of Columbus The Quincentenary (1492-1992) Teacher’s Curriculum Guide for Grades K-12 1 10
1992 Columbus, Ohio: Ameriflora ’92 , the Quincentenary in Columbus 1 11
1993 Final Report, July 30, 1993 [annotated] 1 12