library

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.”

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”

A Day in the Life…

Spring 2016 Newsletter Cover

Spring 2016 Newsletter Cover

Part of my job as the Graphic Designer here at The Buffalo History Museum is to layout our quarterly newsletter, The Album. Each newsletter has a different theme that then translates down to the content and cover image, for example last month’s theme was “Connections.” Our summer theme is “Celebrations,” where we will be featuring upcoming museum events, exhibits, and artifacts fit for a celebration!

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Catalogue boxes and file folders filled with images from TBHM collection.

I went right to our Research Library in search of the perfect cover image, which was harder than one would think. Celebrations should be easy to find, right? People having fun at a party, smiling candidly, clinking champagne flutes…or not. With the help of our Librarian, Cynthia Van Ness we had to think of some “outside the box” categories to broaden our image search.

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Canisius High School Father-Son Football banquet, 1936

First up were program books from local parties of the past, while there were some interesting finds, like this adorable football invite for a Canisius high school banquet from 1936, most did not have much imagery to them. Next we tried to focus in on celebrations that happened at The Buffalo History Museum, past exhibit openings, Annual Meetings, milestone anniversaries etc., but sadly cover worthy images still eluded us.

StoryBookParade

Storybook Land parade, 11.14.1959

Then, jackpot! After changing our party-centric mindset we moved toward parades and picnics and there came the celebratory moments we’ve been searching for! Let me tell you there were a wide variety of parades held in Buffalo; Loyalty day, Ringling Brothers and Barnum Baily Circus Parade, Allentown Village Society Parade, and even a Storybook Land Parade.  The picnic photos were eye-catching as well as capturing summer holidays grilling with family or laughing in the park.

Now for which image won the cover you will have to wait in see. The summer issue of The Album will be out by the end of May, stop in the museum for a copy or grab a membership and have the issue delivered right to your door!

Jennifer Nichols
Graphic Designer/Marketing Associate

Buffalo Newspaper Custom Search Engine

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One of our most frequently asked questions is “Can I search old Buffalo newspapers online?” The answer is, “It depends.” Some newspapers have been digitized at some websites, which we talk about below. But all of the major Buffalo newspapers starting with our first paper, the Buffalo Gazette, founded in 1811, are not online in any comprehensive or systematic way. We hope to make an announcement soon about a newspaper digitization plan.

Until then, there are multiple online newspaper sites with random chunks of this or that newspaper, so we decided to make our own search engine to make it easier to access them. We focused on sites likely to have Buffalo articles and sites indexed by Google.

When we had several that fit the bill, we set up a custom search engine called Buffalo Newspapers.

With this single search box, you can simultaneously drill into these newspaper sites and use all of the Google operators you’ve gotten used to, like quotation marks to find a phrase, or the –(minus symbol) to leave out a word. Four of the sites are free, but two have a paywall or require a paid membership. At the pay sites, you may get the first paragraph free, which will help you decide if it is worth purchasing the entire article.

 

What’s Under the Hood:

Name of Site Comments Coverage begins Coverage ends Fee or Free Indexed by Google
Buffalo News The Buffalo News does not permit Google to index its archives, but it has a reseller, Highbeam.com, who does 1998 present $ Yes, through Highbeam.com
Chronicling America This is where the Library of Congress is gradually digitizing the nation’s newspapers Colonial Era 1922 Free Yes
FultonHistory.com Scanned microfilms from around upstate NY, with imperfect OCR[i] 1795 2007 Free Yes
New York Times The NYT used to pay attention to Buffalo. When you open a link from the NYT, look for the tiny link to download a PDF 1851 1980 Free Yes
Newspapers.com Operated by Ancestry.com, presently has 61 newspapers from around New York State 1797 1977 $ Yes
NYShistoricnewspapers.org  This is a collaborative effort to   host digitized newspapers from around New York State Colonial Era 1922 in most cases Free Yes

[i] OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, the software that enables a computer to “read” printed pages and make them full-text searchable

If you like this search engine, we invite you to embed it at your blog or website. Please contact us in the Library to request the code: library@buffalohistory.org.

Cynthia Van Ness
Director of Library and Archives

Death of the card catalog (dun dun dun!)

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Cataloging card cabinets

Friday, October 2, 2015 marked the official end to the Online Computer Library Center’s (OCLC) printing of catalog cards for libraries. Yes kids, as seen in the haunted New York Public Library basement of Ghostbusters or the cabinets in the background of The Big Bang Theory. Nearly all libraries have now incorporated the use of an online catalog essentially rendering cataloging cards obsolete. While many libraries may still have ordered the cards as a back up to their online system, OCLC decided it would no longer supply the cards and could turn its attention to other prevalent issues libraries are facing. For those of you curious to see what was printed in the final batch of cards, check out this video and article from The Columbus Dispatch.

Examples of the Research Library catalog cards. The cards on the left side shows beautifully handwritten cards from our Old Book Catalog, which we still use. The cards on the right side are from our last batch ordered from OCLC. Notice the “end of life” statement on the first printed card.

Worry not my nostalgic friends; we at the Research Library still have a couple of card catalog cabinets that we use almost on a daily basis. Those of you who have visited us recently may have checked out our Obituary Index (1811-2001), or the Buffalo/Erie County Civil War Enlistees Index. So, if you’re in the mood for a trip back to your younger years, stop by and take in the sights of the card catalogs we still use. Just watch out for the Library Ghost!

Amy Miller
Assistant Librarian & Archivist

The Birth of Journalism in Buffalo

BfloExpress18121013wm (2)October 3, 2011 went uncelebrated as a major anniversary in Buffalo’s history. Two hundred years earlier, Buffalo’s first newspaper, the Buffalo Gazette, began publishing on October 3, 1811. An annual subscription cost $2.50, equal to about $44 in today’s dollars.

The Buffalo Gazette was founded by the Salisbury brothers, Hezekiah A. Salisbury (1789-1856) and Smith H. Salisbury (ca. 1783-1832). Because of the difficulty of securing reliable supplies of paper, publication was irregular. The first paper mill west of the Genesee River did not open until 1817 in Batavia.

The first page of the issue of the Gazette devoted several column inches to listing books and pamphlets available for sale at the Buffalo Book Store and featured an excerpt from the Manual of the State of New York. Back then, “news” was what happened in the outside world, information that was in high demand in isolated frontier villages. What happened here was already known to Buffalo’s small population (1508 in the 1810 census). Local coverage was sometimes sparse in these early newspapers.

War of 1812 researchers will be disappointed by the Gazette’s lack of coverage of the Burning of Buffalo. Dec. 14, 1812, was the last time the Gazette was published before the press was moved for safety to Harris Hill in Clarence. The Salisbury brothers had assessed the risk correctly, for the British burned Buffalo to the ground on December 30, 1813. No reporters were at the scene; residents supplied eyewitness accounts, sometimes long after the event. The next issue of the Gazette appeared on January 18, 1814. It did not return to Buffalo until April 1814.

The Research Library has the Buffalo Gazette on microfilm, plus it owns a set of very fragile bound volumes of original issues starting in December 1812. The Gazette underwent a series of name changes (Niagara Patriot, Buffalo Patriot, Buffalo Patriot & Commercial Advertiser), ending its long journalism tenure in December 1924 as the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. We have all surviving issues of these newspapers on microfilm.

In 1812, the Salisbury press also published Buffalo’s first book, the French Convert, an anti-Catholic novel that had been popular in Europe for almost a century. The Research Library owns the sole surviving copy in Buffalo. The Salisbury press next published speeches by Red Jacket and Erastus Granger on the role of Indians in the War of 1812.

To see the Buffalo Gazette and the French Convert, visit the Research Library during our public service hours, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 1-5 pm, with special extended Research Library hours the 2nd and 4th Wed. of each month 6- 8 p.m. No appointments are necessary.

– Cynthia Van Ness, Director of Library and Archives

*This article was featured in the Spring 2014 issue of “The Album”

Favorite Library Acquisitions

During my tenure here at The Buffalo History Museum, I have had many interesting items and collections come across my desk. The vast majority are from generous donations and a select few are ones my boss has found. I’ve decided to pick out a few of my favorites to share with you.

McKinley Poem1. McKinley Poem, 1899. Call number: Mss. A2013-33

This poem is written on the back of a note from Augustus Strong of Rochester to Wilson Bissell of Buffalo; however, the author of the poem is unknown. What is so intriguing about the poem is the prediction of President McKinley facing St. Peter and answering for his polices while holding office. The poem was written in 1899 and sent to a resident of Buffalo. As you all know, President McKinley was assassinated two years later in Buffalo.


2. Meldrum’s special Pinochle playing cards. Call number: GV 1235 .M4 1915   HA Meldrum Co Pinochle Cards

Library catalogers typically don’t encounter 3D objects; those are more frequently found in museum artifact collections. However, we received a donation of a deck of Pinochle playing cards from H.A. Meldrum and wanted to include these in the library collection due to the image of the department store on the cards. This was a unique challenge to accurately describe the cards, a 3D object, within the confines of a library catalog that typically deals with paper.


3. Exit 51W / by Kasia Keeley. Call number: Rare N 6498 .P37 B8 2012

This was another fascinating discovery by my boss and would more accurately be described as artwork than a book, as it contains no linguistic content. It proved to be another unique challenge for me as a cataloger. The artist created a serigraphy and cut paper book of scenes along I-90W from the East, Rt. 33 at Exit51W and Rt. 198. The book has a single piece of grey card stock holding it together that once opened, unfolds like an accordion. Over top of the card stock, the artist has cut paper scenes. They include the Statue of David, the Richardson Complex, the Buffalo History Museum, Niagara Street, the Electric Tower and the Liberty building to name a few. If you’re interested in seeing it, stop by the library or check out the artist website: http://www.kasiakeeley.com/Kasia_Keeley_Artwork/Exit_51W.html


4. Edward Cook Freedom Papers. Call number: Mss. A2013-110 A2013-110 Edward Cook Obit

Just like the many archives of the world, we too make our own discoveries. While only ‘lost’ for a short time, the needs of this collection were finally able to be met 10 years after acquiring it. The collection was donated in 2003 by Dr. Bruce Lee, a descendant of Cook. Edward was the son of Henry Cook, who came to Maryland in slavery from Africa. Henry escaped slavery and joined the Mohawk Indian tribe. He met and married Patty, an Indian woman, and together had Edward, making Edward a free man. Edward moved to Buffalo as a young man, where he made a living being a barber at the Mansion House. The collection includes a photograph of Edward, Baltimore County freedom paper certifying he was born free, baptism certificate for Edward, a permission note to travel at night and his obituary.

Queerie Queers
5. Queerie queers with hands, wings and claws with illustrations by Palmer Cox.
    Call number: Rare PR 9199.2 .C69 Q84

This children’s book, illustrated by Palmer Cox, was published by John D. Larkin out of 663 Seneca Street. The book features many short stories, magic tricks to do at home and less than common nursery rhymes. For example, I grew up on the simple version of “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.” However, the version John D. Larkin helped to publish had a much longer introduction to Jack & Jill. “For an idle lad, as he was, Jack had no traits, after all, that were very bad. He was simply Jack with the coat on his back patched up in all color from gray to black. Both feet were bare; and I do declare that he never washed his face; and his hair was the color of straw.” Thankfully, his soap business was more successful than his publishing.

Amy Miller
Assistant Librarian & Archivist

Secrets from the stacks: Erie County Penitentiary Prisoner Identification Cards

The “Secrets from the Stacks” is a program that is offered only a few times a year to spotlight items the Research Library does not typically get to show off. The program being held on June 6, 2015 will feature the Erie County Penitentiary prisoner identification cards (Mss. B85-6). The collection dates from 1896 to 1914, with the bulk of the photographs being from 1899 to 1905. This collection was donated to the Research Library by the Erie County Correctional Facility (Wende) in 1986 and just recently has been arranged, indexed and cataloged, making it accessible to interested researchers with a Scholar Pass.

Antwater Back WatermarkThe identification cards used by the Erie County Penitentiary are the precursor to modern day finger printing. The cards mimic the Bertillon system in order to identify repeat offenders by their physical features and dimensions, such as their head length, length of middle finger and the length of their foot. The cards also contain the offender’s name, aliases, age, nativity, occupation, charges and sentencing information. These cards were then arranged by a unique system and referenced upon their re-arrest. The Research Library greatly appreciated the donation due to the collections valuable genealogical, sociological, criminology and anthropological research potential.

The program will feature many of the identification cards for the attendees to view, along with photographs of the Erie County Penitentiary to help place the collection within context and other true crime resources. The program will run from 10 am to 12 pm on June 6, 2015. The completed index is available online, by going to http://tinyurl.com/TBHM-prisoners.

Amy Miller
Assistant Librarian & Archivist