By BEN ROWE
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Dewey Decimal system and President William McKinley are not usually the first things to come to mind when thinking of the Adirondacks.
Yet for former Peacock Music owner Gary Peacock, they represent just two of the many details that make up the history of the region.
Since closing his namesake music store in 2006 after 23 years of business, Peacock has worked to study these and other stories and pass them along to Adirondack residents and visitors alike.
RETURN TO SCHOOL
The shift from music salesman to Adirondack historian began in 2009 when Peacock started taking classes at Clinton Community College.
He enrolled full time in 2010 and graduated as valedictorian of his class with an associate’s degree in humanities in spring 2011.
“That was really exciting and really got me pumped up and thinking, ‘Well, I got this far. I might as well keep going,’” he said.
That fall, Peacock enrolled as a history major at SUNY Plattsburgh. Shortly after beginning his coursework, he noticed an opportunity to combine his interest in studying history with his lifelong appreciation of the Adirondacks.
Having grown up in Chateaugay, Peacock remembered many childhood vacations spent traveling in his family’s camper van to different Adirondack campgrounds, including Fish Creek Pond and Lake Meachum.
“So I was exposed to the deep part of the Adirondacks from a pretty early age,” he said.
It wasn’t long into his SUNY Plattsburgh studies that Peacock noticed that almost every course he took could be used to examine a different aspect of the Adirondacks.
With that idea in mind, he worked with campus officials to develop a customized curriculum and, in 2012, became the first student at SUNY Plattsburgh to minor in Adirondack history.
Peacock said he has enjoyed discovering how his general courses, such as ecology and geography, could apply to his minor.
“Even if they weren’t specifically about the Adirondacks, I was able to do my research papers focusing on the Adirondacks,” he said.
WORKING ON APP
With an expected graduation date of spring 2014, Peacock is working on his senior-year capstone project: a smartphone application that would serve as a travel guide to the Adirondacks.
“People can click on a point on a Google map and a history will come up of that particular spot,” he said.
Along with local history, Peacock hopes to include geologic information for different locations, as well as profiles of notable residents.
For example, the role Dewey Decimal System creator Melvil Dewey played in establishing Lake Placid as a premier destination for winter sports is a lesser-known piece of local history that he hoped to include.
Peacock said users could also reference the guide when traveling along a particular trail or up a certain mountain to feel more connected to those who had traveled that location in the past.
When climbing Mount Marcy, for instance, Peacock said hikers could use the guide to follow in the footsteps of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt was on top of Marcy when he learned of the assassination of William McKinley and was rushed back to be sworn in as president.
Peacock aims to provide information to about 15 to 20 locations around the Adirondacks. Along with a text-based app, he hopes to work out the technical challenges of developing an audio app with the same travel information.
After graduation, Peacock plans to enjoy the wilderness that he has been studying before deciding what to do next.
“I’m just going to do a lot of kayaking and camping this summer and extending that right into the fall, and then I’ll make a decision,” he said.