BUFFALO, N.Y. — Under the guidance of Lecturer Noelle Wiedemer, Buffalo State College students are working with images that haven’t been viewed in nearly a century.
The students are learning how to handle glass plate negatives and vintage archival materials. These are all for The Buffalo History Museum, Howard D. Beach Collection.
Since there are about 57,000 glass plate negatives, the job is time consuming and tedious.
“They learn to clean them, they learn to rehouse them, they learn to digitize them, and then they learn to do research on them,” said Wiedemer.
The main photographer in the collection is Howard Beach, who moved to Buffalo in the late 1800s. He took pictures of Buffalo’s elite.
“It’s the Knox family, the Albright family, the Darwin Martin family. It’s cool from my perspective seeing my 20-year-old students really embrace genealogy. As we keep saying, ‘they get bit by the beach bug and off they go,’” explained Wiedemer.
With such hands-on work, continuing the research during the pandemic isn’t easy, but Wiedemer is adapting. She is focusing on archival material and allowing students to transcribe letters from the early 1900 through an internship.
“They interpret the information in those letters and put it in context in order to understand what life may have been like at the time,” said Wiedemer.
Understanding that there are some parallels to Beach’s life and our current time.
“He managed to keep his business going through two world wars and the Great Depression and still maintained a successful living,” added Wiedemer.
If you are interested in learning about Buffalo State’s Museum Studies master’s program and how you could participate in this work, you can contact Dr. Cynthia Conides at firstname.lastname@example.org.