Charles T. Gehring has spent nearly four decades translating 17th century documents that originated in New Netherland, the Dutch colony that later became New York City. The translated records—letters, deeds, court rulings, and journal entries—reveal a culture that significantly contributed to the city’s development. Author and New York historian Russell Shorto says that the colony became “the melting pot of Europe,” known for its tolerance and free trade. As director of the New Netherland Project, Gehring has overseen the translation of 12,000 pages of Dutch-era records housed at the New York State Library. There are 4,800 pages remaining to be translated. The project began in 1974 when the Holland Society, a group committed to preserving New York’s Dutch colonial history, pushed the state for funding. Gehring was tapped as the project director and translator through his ability to read 17th century Dutch. In the mid 1980s a second translator, Dutch-born writer Janny Venema, was recruited to assist Gehring, He estimates that Venema has helped him translate about 7,200 pages. Although the New Netherland project was begun with state funds, its current work relies primarily on donations and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2009, the Dutch government helped support the initiative with a gift of €200,000.
From “His Specialty? Making Old New York Talk in Its Native Dutch”
New York Times (NY) (12/27/09) Hakim, Danny
Courtesy of ATA Newsbriefs