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Monday, January 13th, 2014

A dedicated volunteer works with museum staff to collect oral histories

BNHV’s Oral History Project seeks to document the lives of Buffalo Niagara Region residents both past and present. The museum, with the help of volunteer Arnold Alt, has been conducting interviews of Western New Yorkers from all walks of life whether they are from rural, urban or suburban districts. Areas of interest we have been exploring are issues relating to our region’s history and culture including handcrafts and traditional trades and contemporary issues such as politics, business, labor, agriculture, environment, ethnicity, religion, education.  So far, 19 individuals have been interviewed and Arnold is working on transcribing their narratives.  

BNHV is uniquely qualified to capture these subject areas because of our institution’s focus on the Buffalo Niagara region which encompasses the geographic regions of Erie and Niagara County including the rural, urban and suburban areas contained within. Specifically, the township in which we are located underwent huge transformation in its landscape and in the diversity of its population in the mid and late 20th century. This history has made our institution and community keenly aware of changes in landscape and related business and real estate development during as well as witness to many social and culture shifts. 

Arnold has enjoyed hearing the stories from the men and women he has so far interviewed and looks forward to the growth of this program, stating that “a life experience, lived through, like a staged drama, can become a unit of experience, created out of disorder, translating the known into recollection.  Narrative is both content and the tell, a package of our past, told from the perspective of the present.  Oral history is an investment in our future culture and community.  Its real value derives from the extension, in memory, of lives lived to remember and record: of ourselves, our families, neighborhoods, and communities.”  

Interested in hearing some short audio clips from some of the interviews?  Check out our website.

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