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Life and Death in a 19th Century Poorhouse: A Case from Erie County

In 2012, construction crews at University at Buffalo’s South Campus came across skeletal remains, and bits and pieces of wooden coffins. After digging around a bit, it was discovered that the remains were from people who had lived (and been buried) at the Erie County poorhouse/almshouse (1851-1913), prior to UB being built.

According to the UB News Center, “It is estimated that at least hundreds, but possibly 1,400 to 3,500 individuals, were buried at the site.  The remains of 350 individuals have been recovered.”

Now the Buffalo History Museum is presenting a three-part series that discusses the nature of the archaeological discovery, the process of exhuming the remains, the following analysis of the remains, historical accounts and identification process, social context of the time period, and the process of reinterment.

Following is the breakdown of the series:

Oct. 14, PART 1 – In our fascinating three part series, learn from three UB researchers and professors as they explore the Erie County poorhouse discovered on UB’s South Campus. First up, Doug Perrelli will describe the history of finding human remains, their archaeological excavations, and their discoveries.

Oct. 21, PART 2 – Rosanne Higgins, PhD will speak on the documentary evidence she collected to support the skeletal and archaeological analysis. From death certificates, to inmate ledgers and mortality records.

Oct 28, PART 3 – In the final lecture, Dr. Joyce Sirianni examines the anthropological analysis of the Erie County Poorhouse. Human skeletal remains are carefully contextualized using the wealth of archaeological and historical data. A critical analysis of the human biology of the Erie County Poorhouse inmates will be presented, contributing significantly to our understanding of the lives of the 19th and 20th century poor.

Life and Death in a 19th Century Poorhouse: A Case from Erie County

Cost: Museum admission, members free
Times: 6 – 8PM
Dates: Wednesdays Oct 14, 21, 28

Buffalo History Museum | 1 Museum Ct, Buffalo, NY 14216 | (716) 873-9644


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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