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The Greg D. Tranter Collection Manager, the Buffalo Bills Collection and what to expect in the Future

Author: Britt Call 

Here I am surrounded by my current project – working my way through the collection of die-cast model cars, busses, trucks and airplanes
Here I am surrounded by my current project – working my way through the collection of die-cast model cars, busses, trucks and airplanes

A little more than a month ago, I accepted my current role as the Greg D. Tranter Collection Manager at The Buffalo History Museum. You may say that I am in training to become the ‘resident Buffalo Bills expert.’ I am responsible for the cataloguing – what we call ‘accessioning’ – of the Buffalo Bills collection donated by Greg D. Tranter that was announced to the public at the end of April 2016.

It isn’t just any “Buffalo Bills collection” though – in its entirety, it includes 100,000 artifacts and archival objects and it has been reported on heavily here in Buffalo and even as far as Boston.

Greg is pictured at the desk where he does most of his preliminary work before sending the objects to us at the museum
Greg is pictured at the desk where he does most of his preliminary work before sending the objects to us at the museum

The Sports Collectors Daily described the collection as “jaw-dropping” – I would agree, wholeheartedly. For a Bills fan, it is jaw-dropping for the singular reason that it is an enormous collection celebrating our football team. It celebrates the good, the bad and the ugly, depending on how you wish to interpret certain events: wide-right, anyone? For me, it is jaw-dropping because of the complete and exhaustive collecting undertaken by Greg: for example, the collection includes every single program ever produced since the very first game in 1960; he isn’t missing a single one! If a series of Christmas Ornaments was produced, Greg collected every one of them so that there would be a complete grouping.

bills-guru-2So, what’s happening with it?

The accessioning process for the tens of thousands of artifacts is going to take years and the steps we take to register an object can be time consuming, especially if it a multi-piece object (like a Tailgating themed pick-up truck with tailgating accessories – a grill, a couple of coolers, etc). Every single object goes through our cataloguing process which includes a number of steps. Once the white cotton gloves have been put on, an object is carefully handled and described: we take note of any labeling on the object or packaging, the condition it is in (we look for any scratches but also remark if it’s in excellent condition), and then we measure (for storage and display) and take photographs. Every object is assigned a unique identifying number, what we call an Object ID; once the number has been assigned, we input all of the data into our cataloguing system, Past Perfect. The end result is a Subject Card that gets added to our vertical files that are housed in filing cabinets (like the one in the photo to the right). This allows us to have two points of reference; the new system of Past Perfect and the old catalogue-card system.

The final step in the process is to find a “home” for the object in our storage. We store everything in acid free boxes that are organized by classification. This is done for the long-term preservation of an object but also to ensure easier discovery for future Collections staff.

bills-guru-3Okay, so there is still a lot of work to be done. Can we still see the Collection even though it isn’t on display?

Absolutely! We have lots of projects on the go to ensure that we are sharing the collection with you. Over the next year, we’ll be putting together a virtual exhibit that will be accessible on our website (www.buffalohistory.org); it will include a variety of objects and related information, in addition to some oral histories shared by the donor, Greg. Like the accessioning process, that will take time. In the meantime, I plan to do a few more blog posts since I could talk forever about the parts of the collection that fascinate me (like the Art Baker jersey or the O.J. Simpson “See-Action” football board game and the “Bermuda Triangle” poster with Fred Smerlas, Jim Haslett and Shane Nelson)! More immediate though, is our sharing on social media; if you don’t follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and you would like to see more of the Greg D. Tranter Buffalo Bills Collection, you should! We would love to hear your thoughts, memories and stories about an object we share – maybe you even have the same thing at home.

So, to end, I offer three things about myself:

  1. I was convinced that the entire collection could fill the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium… but I have been assured that it probably can’t
  2. The red standing buffalo logo is my favorite of all of the logos (it’s also Greg Tranter’s favorite logo!)
  3. Of the few hundred objects I have accessioned thus far, this stein is my favorite object. It has a raised scene of a football game, complete with a quarterback and referees and an oversized logo at the front.

Go Bills!

Britt Call, The Greg D. Tranter Collection Manager


Related Links:

Sports Collectors Daily

Link to: My Collecting Passion


The Buffalo History Museum | One Museum Court | Buffalo, New York 14216 | (716) 873-9644

Article originally appeared The History Museum blog on July 10, 2016

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