research

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. 

Lt. Col. Michael Wiedrich

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Painting of Col. Michael Wiedrich, by A. E. Elsasser, 1892. From the TBHM Collection.

Michael Wiedrich (b.1820 – d.1899) immigrated to the United States from Alsace-Lorraine, France in 1837.  At the start of the Civil War in 1861 he was a shipping clerk for Pratt & Letchworth in Buffalo and served as a captain in the 65th Regiment New York State Militia.

Under authority from the War Department, Wiedrich organized a unit known as Battery I of the 1st New York Artillery or Wiedrich’s Battery. It was composed of 140 men and officers exclusively of German descent. The battery participated in battles at Cross Keys, Freeman’s Ford, Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. Other battles included Lookout Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, and the Siege of Atlanta. In February 1863 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 15th Artillery. Wiedrich’s unit mustered out (disbanded) in 1865.

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Presentation Sword, 1864. The sword’s scabbard is inscribed, “Presented to Lt. Col. Michael Wiedrich by Battery 1, 1st N.Y. Art. May 21, 1864,” it also lists the various battles the unit was engaged in during the Civil War. From TBHM collection.

 

Wiedrich returned to Buffalo after the Civil War, where he held several public offices and was involved in the fire insurance business until his death in 1899.

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Dedication of Wiedrich’s Battery Monument at Gettysburg, PA 1889.

This 1889 newspaper clipping captures the surviving members of the 1st New York Artillery (Wiedrich’s Battery). The clipping is part of a Wiedrich family scrapbook located in the Buffalo History Museum’s Research Library.

 

The plaster model for the bronze bas-relief of Weidrich’s Battery, which appears on the memorial in the photograph, is on display in the Identity section of the exhibit Neighbors: The People of Erie County exhibit.

Walt Mayer
Director of  Museum Collections

*This article was featured in the Spring 2015 issue of “The Album”

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.”

Spotlight Artifact: Life Mask and Hands

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During Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Chicago in March 1860, American sculptor Leonard Volk took a life mask of the future President. It took about an hour to set the plaster on his face with straws in his nostrils, while Lincoln understandably disliked the process, he was pleased with the outcome. In May 1860, the sculptor took castings of Lincoln’s hands in Springfield, IL. Volk decided that he would like the President to hold something when he took the cast of his hands, so Lincoln obliged him by going out to the wood shed, sawing off a broom handle, and smoothing down the edges to hold in his hand.

Volk used the mask and hand castings to sculpt busts and full-length statues of Lincoln. It may be that the Volk mask of Lincoln is the most reliable document of Lincoln’s face. Unlike photographs, it preserved the actual form. In the years since the original mask was made, other sculptors have turned to it for their inspiration. Copies, such as the one in our collection, have been cast and sold commercially several times throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Rebecca Justinger
Registrar

*This article was featured in the Spring 2015 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”

ABOUT THE COLONEL GARDNER LEGACY FUND

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Gardner Coins

Colonel Gardner was a life-long resident and an enthusiastic booster of Buffalo. A collector, he avidly pursued interests in coins, stamps and local history.

The old Historical Society “day books” document his frequent visits to donate items from his collections. With the support of Colonel Gardner’s descendants, TBHM deaccessioned the numismatic and philatelic collections.

Proceeds from the sale established the Colonel H. Gardner Fund in 2005, providing resources to preserve, share and build our collection.

Since the Fund was established, it has provided The Buffalo History Museum the ability to:
· Conserve 132 artifacts, contributing over $180,000 in expert artifact treatment.
· Purchase nine acquisitions, from Charles Penny’s Larkin collection to a collection of artwork by Hubert Crawford.
·  Invest over $884,509 in state-of-the-art collections care and storage.

Prior to the Gardner Fund, the Museum had to seek funds for artifact conservation 3-5 years before an exhibit could be produced. It took years to raise funds to conserve the artifacts displayed in our 2001 exhibit, Spirit of the City: Reimagining the Pan American Exposition.

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Conservation treatment of Commodore Perry’s mess table from the U.S.S. Lawrence during the War of 1812.

The Gardner Fund has liberated us in many ways! An example is our series of War of 1812 exhibitions. We started artifact conservation using our own resources provided by the Gardner Fund as soon as we began planning the exhibits.

Kim Luangpakdy
Director of Development

 

 

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”

Participate In Our Next Exhibit

Icons-PennantLogo

Would you like to participate in an upcoming Buffalo sports exhibit? Here’s how: The Buffalo History Museum is planning a feature exhibit, Icons: The Makers and Moments of Buffalo Sports. Opening in 2017, the exhibit will explore Western New York’s rich sports history and investigate the unique connection between fans and our beloved local teams.

We’re collecting memories from the community to help shape our story. The survey will take 15-20 minutes of your time, and asks you to recall who you remember to be the top ten moments, figures and teams. Your submissions will help shape the exhibit by determining the stories we highlight.

Follow the link for the survey: Icons: The Makers and Moments of Buffalo Sports Survey

The Greg D. Tranter Collection Manager, the Buffalo Bills Collection and what to expect in the Future

BRC at desk. JUNE blog
Here I am surrounded by my current project – working my way through the collection of die-cast model cars, busses, trucks and airplanes.

A little more than a month ago, I accepted my current role as the Greg D. Tranter Collection Manager at The Buffalo History Museum.  You may say that I am in training to become the ‘resident Buffalo Bills expert.’  I am responsible for the cataloguing – what we call ‘accessioning’ – of the Buffalo Bills collection donated by Greg D. Tranter that was announced to the public at the end of April 2016.

 

GDT at desk. JUNE Blog

Greg is pictured at the desk where he does most of his preliminary work before sending the objects to us at the museum.

It isn’t just any “Buffalo Bills collection” though – in its entirety, it includes 100,000 artifacts and archival objects and it has been reported on heavily here in Buffalo and even as far as Boston.  The Sports Collectors Daily described the collection as “jaw-dropping” – I would agree, wholeheartedly.  For a Bills fan, it is jaw-dropping for the singular reason that it is an enormous collection celebrating our football team.  It celebrates the good, the bad and the ugly, depending on how you wish to interpret certain events: wide-right, anyone?  For me, it is jaw-dropping because of the complete and exhaustive collecting undertaken by Greg: for example, the collection includes every single program ever produced since the very first game in 1960; he isn’t missing a single one!  If a series of Christmas Ornaments was produced, Greg collected every one of them so that there would be a complete grouping.


Subj Card. JUNE blogSo, what’s happening with it?
The accessioning process for the tens of thousands of artifacts is going to take years and the steps we take to register an object can be time consuming, especially if it a multi-piece object (like a Tailgating themed pick-up truck with tailgating accessories – a grill, a couple of coolers, etc).  Every single object goes through our cataloguing process which includes a number of steps.  Once the white cotton gloves have been put on, an object is carefully handled and described: we take note of any labeling on the object or packaging, the condition it is in (we look for any scratches but also remark if it’s in excellent condition), and then we measure (for storage and display) and take photographs.  Every object is assigned a unique identifying number, what we call an Object ID; once the number has been assigned, we input all of the data into our cataloguing system, Past Perfect.  The end result is a Subject Card that gets added to our vertical files that are housed in filing cabinets (like the one in the photo to the right).  This allows us to have two points of reference; the new system of Past Perfect and the old catalogue-card system.

The final step in the process is to find a “home” for the object in our storage. We store everything in acid free boxes that are organized by classification.  This is done for the long-term preservation of an object but also to ensure easier discovery for future Collections staff.

Stein. JUNE blogOkay, so there is still a lot of work to be done. Can we still see the Collection even though it isn’t on display?
Absolutely!  We have lots of projects on the go to ensure that we are sharing the collection with you.  Over the next year, we’ll be putting together a virtual exhibit that will be accessible on our website (www.buffalohistory.org); it will include a variety of objects and related information, in addition to some oral histories shared by the donor, Greg.  Like the accessioning process, that will take time.  In the meantime, I plan to do a few more blog posts since I could talk forever about the parts of the collection that fascinate me (like the Art Baker jersey or the O.J. Simpson “See-Action” football board game and the “Bermuda Triangle” poster with Fred Smerlas, Jim Haslett and Shane Nelson)!  More immediate though, is our sharing on social media; if you don’t follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and you would like to see more of the Greg D. Tranter Buffalo Bills Collection, you should! We would love to hear your thoughts, memories and stories about an object we share – maybe you even have the same thing at home.

So, to end, I offer three things about myself:

  • I was convinced that the entire collection could fill the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium… but I have been assured that it probably can’t
  • The red standing buffalo logo is my favorite of all of the logos (it’s also Greg Tranter’s favorite logo!)
  • Of the few hundred objects I have accessioned thus far, this stein is my favorite object. It has a raised scene of a football game, complete with a quarterback and referees and an oversized logo at the front.

Go Bills!

Britt Call,
The Greg D. Tranter Collection Manager

Related Links:

Sports Collectors Daily – https://www.sportscollectorsdaily.com/jaw-dropping-buffalo-bills-collection-donated-museum/

Link to: My Collecting Passion: https://buffalohistorymuseum.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/my-collecting-passion/