student learning

Ten Things You Can You In The Research Library On Your Next Visit

If you’re a first-time visitor to the Research Library, it is not immediately apparent what you can do and discover here. So we thought we’d write a list for the neophyte.

1. Look for a relative or ancestor’s obituary. We have a card file with names of people who were listed in obituary columns in Buffalo daily newspapers, 1811-2001. There are about 99,000 names in alphabetical order. While this isn’t every single death reported in almost two centuries of Buffalo newspapers, it is the largest obituary index in Erie County.

MicroFilmScanner2. Read a newspaper published the day you were born. We have Buffalo newspapers on microfilm from 1811 to about 2011, including Polish and German papers published here. We can get out y

our birthday paper, load it on a microfilm reader-printer, and you can make black & white copies from it for $.25/page.

3. See if we have a picture of the house you grew up in. We have about 30,000 house & building photos from Buffalo & surrounding area. Maybe we have your childhood home or corner store.

4. Figure out where your grandparents lived. If no one can recall for sure where Grandma & Grandpa lived, come on in and consult our Buffalo city directories. We have one for every year from 1828 to 2001, with a few gaps.

Stacks5. Look at Buffalo & Erie County atlases. We have roughly one per decade from 1850 to 1950, with a few gaps. What’s great about them is that they show footprints of individual houses & buildings that used to be there or might still be there today. You can look at them one by one and see when your house first appears, which helps you narrow down when it was built.

6. Check our vintage postcards. We have about 8,000 Buffalo picture postcards organized by subject (including many duplicates), plus we have a separate album of about 400 Buffalo cards collected and donated by Phyllis Peyton. Her album is out on a counter for anyone to browse.

7. Use our WiFi. The Museum has free wifi throughout our building. Ask for the log-in at the Front Desk or in the Research Library.

8. Check out our new acquisitions. We are always adding to the collection in one way or another. We purchase Buffalo-related books today that we think will answer questions tomorrow and beyond. Maybe we found something that you didn’t know existed.

9. Look at church records on microfilm. These are important for family history research. New York State did not pass a vital records law until 1880, meaning that there are no government-issued birth certificates, marriage licenses, or death certificates prior to1880. This is where sacramental records come in. We have baptism, marriage, and death records on microfilm from about 180 local congregations, mostly Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Methodist. Special bonus: we also have some cemetery records on microfilm.

CarcCatalog10. Pick our brains. Got a Buffalo-area history question or research problem and you don’t know where to start? Our expert librarians are on duty whenever the Research Library is open to the public. While we cannot undertake your research for you, we can identify and pull out relevant books, clippings, atlases, pictures, microfilms, or more, to get you started. We don’t always know what the answer is; we know (or work to figure out) where the answer is.

The Research Library cares for everything two-dimensional collected by the Museum since 1862, mostly paper-based stuff. This includes books, periodicals, newspapers, letters, diaries, personal papers, postcards, photographs, prints, drawings, scrapbooks, microfilms, atlases, maps, pamphlets, and audio-visual material.

The Library is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, 1:00 to 5:00 pm, plus evening hours on Wednesdays, 6:00 to 8:00 pm. No appointments are necessary. Admission is free for members and $7 for general. Questions? Call us at (716) 873-9644 ext. 306 or email library@buffalohistory.org.

Cynthia Van Ness, MLS
Director of Library & Archives

*This article was featured in the Winter 2016-2017 issue of “The Album,” The Buffalo History Museum’s quarterly newsletter. 

What is WorldCat and Why Do We Love It?

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“The majority of information lies outside the Internet.”
– Jens Redmer, Director of Google Book Search, quoted at Slippery Brick, January 2007

“What’s on the web is extremely ephemeral. Very little of it was written before 1995.”
– Brewster Kahle, creator of the Internet Wayback   Machine, quoted in Newsweek, March 29, 2004 p. 58.

Anyone with an interest in the past soon realizes that Google does not represent the sum total of all recorded human knowledge.  The Buffalo History Museum has been collecting paper-based history for 150 years now, amassing library collections that include 23,000 books, 2,000 manuscript collections, 200,000 pictures & photographs, 7,000 postcards, 7,000 microfilms, 10,000 maps, plans, drawings, and posters, hundreds of reel-to-reel audio recordings, hundreds of periodicals, and uncounted thousands of pamphlets, brochures, newspaper clippings, and other paper-based ephemera.

So, considering that people have been storing information on paper for about 1000 years and the internet is only about 20 years old, how do you figure out what is out there for research purposes if it isn’t digitized and optimized for search engines?

Enter WorldCat.org, which you can think of as Google for the offline world.  It is one free giant online card CATalog for the WORLD’s libraries.  The Research Library has been computerizing its bibliographic records for almost 30 years and has contributed over 25,000 of them to WorldCat, which now boasts one billion records of items found in the libraries all over the planet. Those same 25,000 bibliographic records are also searchable in our in-house catalog, FRANK (Find Resources And New Knowledge).

If you look up Lauren Belfer in FRANK, you discover that the Research Library owns her popular Buffalo novel, City of Light.  If you look her up as an author in WorldCat, you discover that there are 21 entries for her, including Swedish, Italian, and French translations of City of Light.  Click on any one title to see which libraries own copies.

When a book actually is online in full text, catalogers can build a link into their bibliographic records, enabling you to read it at your computer.  But only a tiny percentage of books, newspapers, etc. have been scanned.  Your WorldCat search results will usually show you records of undigitized books, maps, newspapers, periodicals, recordings, letters, and diaries that reside in library collections and must be viewed in person.  In other words, the past is not online.

In the Library, we use WorldCat to figure out who owns something when we do not.  WorldCat showed us that the internal business records of the Bethlehem Steel Company (over 200 linear feet!), including the Lackawanna plant, are held by the Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to look in WorldCat for an early short story by Lauren Belfer.  Once you find it, you will discover that it is set in Buffalo and is readable online in full text.  Happy hunting, everyone!

Cynthia Van Ness, MLS
Director of Library & Archives

*This article was featured in the Winter 2012-2013 issue of “The Album”

Education & Educators at The Buffalo History Museum

Hello!  My name is Doreen Dell and I am the education assistant at The Buffalo History Museum. As teacher for 50 years, my position at the Museum perfectly aligns with my passion and expertise as an educator and history lover. Additionally, I get to work with teachers and students all over Western New York, a privilege I have always enjoyed. I’m excited about this coming October and looking forward to meeting educators who are not only seeking to share Western New York history with their students, but to share ideas with Museum staff and colleagues. Through our new after-school event, Teachers’ Night Out, we hope to help teachers unwind from a day of teaching and socialize over the Museum’s offerings.

Mark your calendar: Teachers’ Night Out will be held on Wednesday, October 12 from 4 – 6 pm at The Buffalo History Museum.

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Buffalo Bliss photo studio located in the Street of Shops

Teachers will have multiple opportunities to learn about the resources available while exchanging ideas with other teachers. Featured are tours on varied topics that will suit a number of lesson plans: We have World War I posters, Paper Bullets: The Posters That Sold the Warin our State Court. You can see Inside Tim Russert’s Office: If it’s Sunday, it’s “Meet the Press” exhibit. The John R. Oishei Native American Gallery exhibit features the history of the Haudenosaunee. In The John R. Oishei Pioneer Gallery, you can learn about Buffalo Creek from 1806 to the burning of Buffalo. The Neighbors exhibit highlights those who came to Buffalo and made the city what it is today. In the Victorian Street of Shops, early businesses are featured on a cobble stone lane. The Bliss photo studio is popular with youngsters and funsters who like to dress up and take selfies for social media sharing. thumb_img_2507_1024My personal favorites are the newly developed history kits, proven to be an effective teaching tool that students will love; the Native American Kit and the Pioneer Kit have artifacts, reproductions, mini posters and an activity book and are available to rent for your classroom. These kits have been met with rave reviews. You will also have the opportunity to try your luck at identifying an artifact from the early 1800s as you examine our Artifact Detective Program that can be presented at your school.

In addition to the program tours and learning tools to explore, our research library will be open so that you can learn how to obtain primary source materials.

Other participating cultural organizations include: The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village, Steel Plant Museum of Western New York, Old Fort Niagara, and the Niagara Frontier Council for the Social Studies.

Did I mention there will be prizes and a happy hour? One of my favorite parts of my job is working with teachers to integrate our resources into their programs. Drop in for a minute or stay as long as we’re open; I look forward to meeting you and your classroom needs.

How to connect with Buffalo history from the comfort of your home

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When you can’t use our books in person, you can sometimes connect online.  Every Buffalo researcher should get to know these online book sites. 

Google Books: https://books.google.com
We LIVE at Google Books. For historical researchers, Google Books is the most important part of the Google empire. For several years, Google has partnered with several major libraries, including Harvard, Cornell, and the New York Public Library, to digitize millions of books and periodicals.  The results are full-text searchable for names of individuals, places, specific phrases, businesses, organizations, events, anything you’d look for the regular Google home page.  Fortunately for us, many of the participating libraries happened to collect books on Buffalo. 

Your search results will have 4 levels of access:
1. Full text: the entire book is online
2. Preview: you can read multi-page excerpts but not the entire book
3. Snippet: you see only the paragraph or sentence containing your search term(s)
4. No preview: the book is not online, usually because the sole surviving copies are owned by one of the many libraries (like us) who are not part of the Google Books project.

Other useful features: you can bookmark your finds in a feature called My Library and share your lists.  You can download entire free books in PDF and read them offline.  Because Google is a business, you can also purchase newly released e-books for your e-reader.

Archive.org: https://archive.org/details/texts
Archive.org is the not-for-profit alternative to Google Books.  It presently has 8.8 million volumes online and all are free and full text.  Their library partners include the Library of Congress, the University of Toronto, and Columbia University.

To search it, click on the magnifying glass icon in the black navigation band across the top of your screen. Archive.org lags behind Google Books in its full text searchability for a specific name, phrase, or term.  However, anyone can upload a text to Archive.org.  Download options include formats designed for screen-readers used by people with vision loss.

HathiTrust: https://www.hathitrust.org
HathiTrust is a consortium of a hundred academic and research libraries around the world who are digitizing books.  It presently has 13.8 million volumes online. About 40% are available for free in full text.  To download a book that is still protected by copyright, you have to be affiliated with a member institution.  At present, the closest participating institution is the University of Rochester.

Like Google Books, HathiTtrust offers you the option of searching the full-text of everything for a name or phrase.  You can create collections (bookmark your finds) and share them.  You can also limit your search to books that are online in full text.

Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org
The Gutenberg Project is the grand-daddy of all online book sites, founded in 1971 before any of us had ever heard the words Internet, Browser, or Digitize.  It presently offers over 50,000 books, all of which are online for free in full text with several downloading options.  Gutenberg is full-text searchable, as well as browsable by author, title, and subject.  Unfortunately, the Buffalo content here is minimal.

FRANK, our online catalog: http://tinyurl.com/frank-catalog
Naturally, we cannot omit our largest in-house digital project, our online catalog.  It lists over 27,000 distinct books, manuscripts  & microfilms in the Research Library collection.  We are continually cataloging new and old stuff.  When we learn about free online versions of works that we own in hard copy, we build links into the bibliographic record.  Try searching for a person, place, thing, business, church, organization, event, and maybe one of your results will lead you to a full-text, online version.

Cynthia Van Ness, MLS
Director of Library & Archives

*This article was featured in the Spring 2016 issue of “The Album”

Greetings from the Program & Engagement Coordinator

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Megan MacNeill, Program & Engagement Coordinator with actor Josh Gad, who came to visit the museum while in Buffalo filming.

Hello! My name is Megan, you may have seen me here at The Buffalo History Museum, running programs, crafts, and activities! As Program and Engagement Coordinator, I am tasked with creating and running lectures, our ever-popular Train Day, and many other events throughout the year. While I am not a native Buffalonian, I have come to love my new city, and all the history and experiences that it has offered me.

I have been in my position here for a year and a half, and it has flown by! Previously, I lived, studied, and worked in Philadelphia, PA. I went to graduate school and received my MFA in Museum Exhibition Planning and Design. Before I came to Buffalo, I had worked in nine different museums and many different disciplines; from horse racing and dance, to outsider art and the history of chemistry. Regardless of the museum, the amazing stories are what keeps me passionate about my work (and an ever-hopeful Jeopardy! candidate). For instance, the first synthetic dye was developed on accident by a man named William Henry Perkin. When he created that bright mauve color, he was hoping for a synthetic quinine to help treat malaria. My favorite stories here are the not-so-apparent ones. The hidden fossils in the floor of the State Court, the tiny “make-due” piece of a blue star in a quilt, and the symbolism in our WWI propaganda posters.

My love for museums, like many of my peers and colleagues, came from an early age. When I was little my family would take yearly trips to Washington, D.C. My sister and I would drag my parents to the same exhibit, the gemstone room at the National Museum of Natural History. We were fascinated by the colors and sizes, and of course, the Hope Diamond.hopediamond(courtesy of SI) I am incredibly fortunate; every vacation we took as a family featured at least one day-trip to a museum or historic site. Though my parent’s ploy to make us learn may have worked too well, my dad almost kicked my sister and I out of the van on a trip home from Cape Cod because we so desperately and relentlessly were asking to visit the Sandwich Glass Museum again. Luckily we stopped for a visit. What sticks with me just as much as the stories and facts that I’ve learned, is the time spent with loved ones. I feel that museums have a dynamic way of opening us up to learning and also to being in the moment and connecting with each other. This is why I love what I do. Providing our guests with the opportunity to engage not only with our objects and exhibits, but with each other.
So please come viCyanotypeinProgresssit us! Every Third Friday I run hands-on activities in our State Court. They are free and accessible to all ages. In June, we made solar prints. Harkening back to my days as a photography major, we placed found objects on light-sensitive paper, and created our own cyanotypes.

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This summer I will be representing the museum down at Canalside as well! Come see some great old views of the historic canal district (sourced from our library of course) and learn about the history of the Erie Canal! Mondays 12-4, Wednesdays 11-3.

Howard Beach Collection: Student Notes

Our project to research a portion of the Howard Beach is underway. My group and I have selected a number of glass slides. Some of us chose a theme, like military uniforms or wedding day portraits, or whatever they found interesting. My selections range from a high school hockey team portrait, to a gentleman outfitted in an elaborate tux, to a rather humorous baby. I look forward to researching these individuals and learning more about them and their lives.

Figure 1: 39837 Bishop Colton Negative

Figure 1: 39837 Bishop Colton Negative

Since our slides have been selected, we have photographed them so that they can be preserved digitally. Once these were digitized we were able to invert them, bringing the image to life. I must admit the first time I saw one of my slides inverted I shouted in excitement; the image was so much better than I had imagined. Here I have a sample of a slide of one Bishop Colton and what I assume was his cathedral. I have more research ahead of me to know for sure.

Figure 2: 39837 Bishop Colton Positive

Figure 2: 39837 Bishop Colton Positive

Helping in part of this research is the card catalog that was also found along with the slides. Having an archives in original order like this is incredibly important, this gives us a look into the mind of the archives creator, in this case, Beach himself. It shows us how he thought, how he worked, what a typical business day would be like for him. Once we located the associated catalog card for each of our slides, we digitized these as well, as seen in Figure 3 here. Another aspect I particularly like about the catalog card is that they were all hand written by Beach himself, this is just another of the rich connections to the past that this project has to offer.

Figure 3: 39837 Bishop Colton Catalog Card

Figure 3: 39837 Bishop Colton Catalog Card

From here I have hours of research to look forward to. I hope to uncover everything I can about the people in these images. I can only imagine the histories, mysteries, war stories, scandals, or family legends I may discover.

– Megan Barr
Museum Studies student at Buffalo State

Discovering the Howard D. Beach Collection: A Journey Into History (Part 2)

beach14Today, I went to class with more excitement and anticipation about what I might find in the next box of negatives. I chose another banker box at random marked 44400-44800. I opened the lid to find the negative boxes extremely decayed.

Figure 1: The negative boxes were all falling apart, and the negatives stuck together.

beach16Figure 2(left): Two images stuck together from moisture and mold growth.

beach17Figure 3: Before these negatives can be preserved they must go through conservation. There is tissue paper that is not acid free, therefore it contributes to the continued decay of the negative, other issues of decay include emulsion silvering, water and mold damage. Here are three negatives stuck together and clearly illuminates the tissue paper used to separate the negatives. We now know that acid-free paper is great for archival preservation however, this paper is not acid free and as long as there is tissue paper in between the negatives, there continues to be decay. In order to preserve this collection, first it must be stabilized. Since there is so much damage and no identifiable data on this entire series of negatives the entire banker box full of negatives must be marked for conservation.

After musing for a while about the massive undertaking it is going to require just to stabilize the collection, before it will be ready to be exhibited, calculated out could take years. Consider that there are 13 Graduate students currently working on a mere 15-30 images each, barely is a drop in the bucket of this collection. It is going to require not only funding but dedication and determination to keep as much of this collection intact during the stabilization and preservation stages. It begs the question, should they all be saved? In my humble opinion, I think so. Who knows the connections that can be made through researching the images, names and records!

With only a little time left in class, I moved onto another Banker box full of 8” X 10” Negative Boxes from various manufacturers. Still feeling excited but moreover, present to the massive undertaking of a project I am only beginning to understand.

– Danielle Delia
Museum Studies Student at Buffalo State