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"Librarian's Corner" - 2016

by: Edward Patton
       Those of you that have not taken advantage of our research library at the Heritage Discovery Center should give it a try. The normal access hours are Tues, Thurs, and Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Our collections of material run the gamut from railroads, steel plants, marine and genealogical items. The group that is managing the library is the Buffalo Irish Genealogical Society (BIGS) a 501(c)(3) organization that has achieved certification as a library, archive and museum in addition to their mission to promote genealogy.

          Over the last year, BIGS has been wading their way through piles of old Erie and Erie-Lackawanna personnel records donated by Devin Lawton and Mike Connor. They have also done the same task to some New York Central records belonging to the Society. The task was an arduous one compounded by the fact that some of the records were in poor condition. Donning their dust masks and patiently pulling the pages apart they were able to save this valuable resource. There is an amazing amount of historical material in some of these records. Previously, we recounted just one story of the thousands that are lurking there just waiting to be recovered for our members and the public.

          As of last count the group, Jim & Donna Shine and Diane Blaser, aided by John Blest, were able to process into a database, over 10,000 names. BIGS suspected and proved that the materials were loaded with biographical and genealogically important information. Many of the files contain photographs, birth records, immigration records and military records. Because of their work, our library was selected as the repository for several important collections of materials. The Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society and the Erie-Lackawanna Historical Society relocated their materials and archives from the University of Cleveland to the HDC. In recent months the National Canal Museum chose our library as the recipient of their Westhaeffer Collection, a renowned collection of books and manuscripts on various aspects of railroading.

          In late Jiune of 2016, BIGS began processing this collection into the library. Each book is wrapped in a plastic wrapping to protect the item. Each volume is then identified as to source, owner-ship and its place in the Dewey Decimal System making our catalog valuable to researchers. A second important collection arrived from the same source. This collection consists of quite a number of bound volumes of Railway Age magazine, a significant source of railroad history. There are a number of other items that have come in with that collection that are being itemized. The processing will begin on this new resource as soon as the Westhaeffer Collection is finished.

         We have also received some wonderful New York State historical records volumes from Paul McGrath. Initial inspection shows that these volumes have a great assortment of early maps, etchings and other materials. They will be processed as time allows. Another great resource that is in our library came from retired Buffalo News editor, Mike Vogel. Mike is president of the Buffalo Lighthouse Society. The Lighthouse Society, maintains an office and their displays in the HDC. Their contribution to the library is a wonderful set of "Buffalo City Directories." Most of you might know that these items have information on our ancestors but also are a great source of information on the railroads and industry. The directories also contain such items as lithographs and other art from the various industries and businesses.

         So far we have not mentioned another society asset, our large assortment of maps and photographs that illustrate railroad history. We easily have around 1/2 million images in the form of slides, photos, photo negatives and prints in various formats. This is an underutilized resource for our members.

         The genealogical materials contain everything from how to books to histories of most states, many counties and communities. The collection also contains many books about the manner in which our ancestors led their lives. In addition the collections also include roughly 250,000 microfiche. (That is not a mis-print) Our Rare Book Room has a wonderful assortment of very fine old volumes on a variety of topics. BIGS has staffed the operations on all of the operations noted above. In addition, Christiane Roberts and Sheila O'Donnell have been working very hard entering the Society's holdings into a searchable database and cataloging and arranging our huge collection of well known and not so common magazines and various society newsletters. These tasks continue.

         We are continuing our activities and associations on the national scene in seeking out more resources for our growing collections. We also hope that members remember the society and the library if they are considering passing some of their collections along. If you have an interest in helping out with these endeavors feel free to join the group on our open days. The group can train you or bring you up to speed if your skills have grown rusty.

         In closing we thank everyone who has donated materials and time to our endeavors. In the coming months we will be returning to the types of items in this newsletter that we recently published, telling the story of railroads and that railroading history is fun and rewarding.

The Heritage Discovery Center is open (with COVID-19 guidance) almost every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10:00am - 2:00pm. Our research library is open usually during that time. Please eMail  Donna Shine  or call (716) 662-1164 for an appointment.

COPYRIGHT© 2016 by: Edward Patton, Heritage Discovery Center Librarian.

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