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Tompkins County has a new historian to tackle local preservation

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

Tompkins County welcomes a new historian to continue the preservation and sharing of the region’s rich history. Laura W. Johnson-Kelly was appointed as the new Tompkins County Historian during the April 4 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, following the recent retirement of Carol Kammen.

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As required by New York State law for every municipality with over 400 residents, Johnson-Kelly’s appointment followed a search process held by the Tompkins County Administrator. A retired Cornell University staff, Johnson-Kelly had several roles in museum curation and is an archaeologist by trade. From 2004-2015, she served as the Town of Ithaca’s historian, and is currently a trustee at the History Center of Tompkins County. In 2019, she received the Meritorious Service Award from the New York State Archaeological Association for her leadership of the Finger Lakes Chapter and organization of annual state conferences.

Johnson-Kelly is known for her efforts to increase outreach and programming for young students and the public. She has expressed her interest in bolstering proactive outreach and programming efforts in her new role as Tompkins County Historian.


“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,” said Johnson-Kelly upon accepting the appointment. She 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 expressed her excitement for Johnson-Kelly to begin her role as County Historian, and stated, “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, shared his delight about Johnson-Kelly’s appointment and her remarkable experience in the arenas of local history and archaeology. He expressed his eagerness to work with Johnson-Kelly to expand the community’s sense of history in Tompkins County.

With Johnson-Kelly’s appointment, the community can expect a continued commitment to preserving and sharing the region’s rich history, and exciting new programming and outreach initiatives to come.