Tonawanda News — The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System will receive a two-year National Leadership Grant amounting to $319,809 to advance the library’s work on the first-ever documentation of depression-era historical materials from Western New York.
The materials include artifacts, documents, photographs, information on buildings, artwork, oral histories and music — all from the depression era.
“We surprised ourselves once we found out how much around us that came about during that period,” Anne Conable, the project’s director said. “No one has ever done an inventory of these things.”
“The Public Library as Digitized Commons – A Demonstration Project” was started in 2009, and those on the job have begun collecting depression-era materials and information from both inside and outside of the library.
“We have a totally unique set of 400 scrapbooks which are available to the public,” Conable said. “They include all of the newspaper accounts of Buffalo buildings, Buffalo parks, Buffalo famous people ... and first-hand accounts about the depression.”
Much of the historical information at the library’s disposal includes documentation of projects started by the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency that sought to put jobless people to work providing them with public work endeavors.
Conable said WPA projects are visible in many of the most popular places in Western New York.
“The Buffalo Philharmonic began as a WPA project,” she said. “And Kleinhans Music Hall, and those stone structures all over the Buffalo Zoo.”
A $1.2 million grant from the WPA was also responsible for the building of the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, and artists and writers were also asked to do murals in public buildings, like post offices.
Locally, WPA crews built the majority of the structures in Ellicott Creek Park, including the casino, the boathouse and concession stand, shelters, recreation facilities and the boat dock.