Books

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. 

Pop Culture in the Research Library

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Rick James. Photo from The Buffalo History Museum Collection.

When hometown heroes make it big in American pop culture, we do our best to make sure that they are represented in the Research Library collection. In alphabetical order, below are some books and other items we have collected on celebrities from Buffalo.

Harold Arlen: rhythm, rainbows, and blues
A biography by Edward Jablonski on the creator of Over the Rainbow”
Call Number: ML 410 .A76 J33 1996

Ani DiFranco: righteous babe
A biography by Raffaele Quirino
Call Number: ML 420 .D555 Q57 2000

Ani DiFranco: righteous babe revisited
Quirino’s biography, updated
Call Number: ML 420 .D56 Q57 2004

Ani DiFranco: verses.
Poetry by Ani DiFranco
Call Number: PS 3604 .I385 A55 2007

Best of Ani DiFranco: piano, vocal, guitar.
Words and music of her top songs
Call Number: Oversize M 1630.18 .D557 B47 1999

Goo Goo Dolls
We have two adorable black & white publicity shots from Warner Bros, ©1993 and ©1999, back when they still wore eye shadow
Call Number: General Subject Collection – Music – Bands.

James, Rick
We have four black & white photos, including two stage shots
Call Number: General Subject Collection – Persons – James, Rick

James, Rick
The confessions of Rick James: memoirs of a super freak
His autobiography, published after his death
Call Number: ML 420 .J233 A3 2007

Rodriguez, Spain
Cruisin’ with the Hound: comics
A graphic novel by the recently-deceased cartoonist, featuring locales and events in Buffalo in the 1950s and’60s.
Call Number: PN 6727 .R625 C78 2012

Milton Rogovin: the making of a social documentary photographer
A biography by Melanie Herzog
Call Number: TR 647 .R62 H47 2006

Investigation of Communist activities in the Buffalo, N.Y. area: hearings, 1957
These transcripts of the hearings held by House Committee on
Un-American  Activities led to the blacklisting of Milton Rogovin
Call Number: HX 92 .B9 A52 1957

Big Russ and me: father and son: lessons of life /
Tim Russert’s affectionate memoir
Call Number: PN 4874 .R78 A3 2004

Smith, Buffalo Bob
We have four black & white photos, including two of a public appearance in Niagara Square in the 1950s
Call Number: General Subject Collection – Persons – Smith, Buffalo Bob

Howdy and me : Buffalo Bob’s own story /
Buffalo Bob Smith’s autobiography
Call Number: PN 1992.77 .H663 S65 1990

These items can be seen during normal library hours, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 1-5 pm and Wednesday evenings 6-8pm. No appointments are necessary.  Questions? Call us at (716) 873-9644 x 306 or email library@buffalohistory.org.

Cynthia Van Ness, MLS
Director of Library & Archives

*This article was featured in the Fall 2013 issue of “The Album.”

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”

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”

Native American History in the Museum Shop

Native American display 2The shop at The Buffalo History Museum is not simply for souvenirs.  Although we do have plenty of those, we also stock items of local interest that are difficult to find elsewhere.  We carry a wide range of books about local history, many by local authors.  Among our book selection is an excellent collection on Native American history. Thumbing through the pages in this collection reveals a breadth of fascinating knowledge.  Most of us in Western New York have at least a rudimentary knowledge of local Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) history.  But, our book collection on this subject dives into deeper levels of understanding on this important local culture.

One author who has spent his life digging into buried Iroquois history is Gerry Biron. It is important to note that Biron, like many Native authors today, prefers the term “Haudenosaunee” to refer to the Iroquois people.  Haudenosaunee is the name the Iroquois use to refer to themselves, and more people today are realizing it is respectful to use the Native term rather than one thrust upon them by outsiders.  Just as their name is being revived, Haudenosaunee art is also being given the recognition it deserves. Biron has spent years researching and collecting Native American beadwork made by the Haudenosaunee people from New York to Canada. He explains the historical importance of beadwork to the Native people.  Each design is filled with symbolism and meaning. The beadwork would grace clothing and accessories. Eventually these accessories, especially small ladies’ bags, would be sold as souvenirs at Niagara Falls.

Today many in the art world from collectors to galleries are emphasizing the notion that categories such as “folk art” and indigenous art have long been dismissed as kitsch, or “less than” the fine art standards as defined by Western sensibilities. Biron has made it his mission to redefine our perceptions and elevate Native beadwork to be recognized as art of important significance. His collection of beaded bags and antique photographs of beadwork have been displayed in galleries in the American Northeast. The Buffalo History Museum Shop carries two of his books; A Cherished Curiosity and Made of Thunder, Made of Glass.

Another author who is digging through hidden Native history is Sally Roesch Wagner.  In her book, Sisters in Spirit, Wagner explores how women’s rights advocates were inspired and influenced by Seneca women and cultural traditions.  We know that The Women’s Rights Movement of the mid-19th century was concurrent with the Abolitionist movement. These two groups often worked together, as both recognized that they were two disadvantaged groups in society. These movements were heavily based in Western and Central New York.  In fact, both the Susan B. Anthony House and the Frederick Douglas Resource Center are located in our close neighbor city, Rochester.  The famous Seneca Falls Convention for Women’s Rights was held in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848. But, many of us don’t realize the ties between women’s rights advocates and the local Native people of Western, NY.

Sally Roesch Wagner says that while Susan B. Anthony is the main person that history often focuses on when discussing the Women’s Rights Movement, she chooses instead to discuss Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage; two women with strong views that are controversial even today.  But, what is striking about these women is their efforts to immerse themselves in understanding the culture of their Seneca neighbors. While many people today don’t understand the complex dynamic of the hierarchy of the Iroquois Federation, Wagner explains that Harriet Maxwell Converse, a close friend of Matilda Joslyn Gage, understood it very well. Converse explained that the Iroquois Federation was made up of six distinct nations, and each nation was unique. She says “The Seneca Nation… is as distinct among Indians as France, Germany, and England are distinct among the nations of Europe” (p23). Within each nation are several tribes.  Therefore the Seneca are not a tribe, but the nation that houses many tribes. This distinction is important because referring to the nations as tribes diminishes their status and affects how they are perceived by those responsible for negotiating and honoring treaties.

Because they exposed themselves to Native life and culture, these women’s rights advocates observed a social dynamic completely unlike the Western model. While men and women of the Seneca certainly did have gender roles, their roles did not subjugate women. Since the Seneca traced ancestry through the matrilineal line, women retained custodial rights of children, whereas European American women lost custody of their children in the event of a divorce. Other issues which are uncomfortable to discuss, such as a women’s right over her own body and domestic abuse, are also explored by Wagner. In an age when a woman who fled from an abusive marriage could be forcibly returned to her husband just as runaway slaves were returned to their masters, women’s rights advocates from Upstate New York found inspiration in the rights afforded to their neighboring Seneca women.

NativeAMericanBooksThese books are only a fraction of the Native American selection we stock here in the Museum shop. While these examples highlight largely unknown history, we also carry books that are more general overviews, as well as children’s history books about Native culture, as well as gifts and trinkets such as playing cards, miniature canoes, and other items. These items compliment a visit to the museum to see our wonderful Native American exhibit. So, please plan a day to learn a little about local Seneca culture at the Buffalo History Museum and Shop!

Carolyn Emerick
Museum Shop Employee