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Buffalo History Museum – Restore, Reactivate, Reconnect

There’s big news underway at the Buffalo History Museum. The museum is 80% of the way towards reaching its $1.43 million goal, which will allow the Buffalo landmark to move forward with significant infrastructure upgrades. The first of those upgrades is to restore 2600 square feet of space under the building’s portico that has not been open to the public for nearly three decades.

Photo: History Museum

Not only will this be valuable space for exhibits and events, it will also help to reconnect the museum to the Olmsted park. Doors and windows will be replaced, revealing natural light and an additional access point. The project is being called Restore, Reactivate, Reconnect.

The capital campaign, launched in fall 2016 has reached 80 percent of its $1.43 million goal.

“Since 1862, The Buffalo History Museum serves as a ready-made social network,” Melissa Brown said. “Our future success requires focused efforts to foster our intrinsic connectivity. We are reclaiming two prime spaces – totaling 6,000 square feet – within the 1901 Pan Am building. Restore, Reactivate, Reconnect invites the community to experience history in new, exciting ways.”

Two guest-centered restoration projects reactivate 30 percent of the National Historic Landmark.

“The restoration, supported by our friends, donors, and members, is sustained through diverse exhibits, programing and community events, continuing the museum’s tradition of honoring and sharing Western New York stories,” said Steven McCarville, president of the Board of Managers. “This campaign was considered with great care in maximizing the museum’s impact, expanding its role as a history hub, and connecting people from all walks. Can you imagine how great The Buffalo History Museum will be when 100% of our space is utilized?”

The second part of the initiative will be to take the ‘Bflo Made!’ exhibit and create a flexible space that can be used for various reasons on the fly. Came fall, the museum anticipates featuring a show dedicated Buffalo sports called Icons: The Makers & Moments of Buffalo Sports.

Carmina Wood Morris is proud to be providing pro-bono the architectural, planning and preservation guidance for this project.

“The Buffalo History Museum, which itself is an iconic architectural artifact, dating back to the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, needs to fully function as a 21st Century museum to tell Buffalo’s story,”said Mayor Brown. “My administration has invested more than $1.5 million for infrastructure upgrades at the Museum and see the “Restore, Reactivate, Reconnect” effort as the pathway to enhancing the facility’s connection between Buffalo’s past, present and future.” 

The project will:

  • Restore our park and lake side entryway for generations to come
  • Reactivate and transform one-third of space within our National Historic Landmark building into state of the art exhibitions and flexible use space for public programs, education and events
  • Reconnect your history museum with the Olmsted Park system

“Our history is full of larger-than-life figures and events, and with the Restore, Reactivate, Reconnect effort the History Museum is preparing to showcase more of these stories in an expanded and more accessible space,” said, County Executive Poloncarz. “Together, we are protecting and investing in our rich historical legacy and making it more available to future generations.”

Image: Joe Cascio

Altogether, the space in question is approximately one third of the entire museum, or 6000 square feet. The space under the portico has been sealed off due to water damage.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • Rand503

    Great news! They have actually started to do more programming. Several years ago, I wrote to them about planning for the bicenntennial of the War of 1812, which had such a significant impact upon our region and its history. They did virtually nothing, and it was a missed opportunity. I complained on yelp that they have no programming and the exhibits are stale.

    Recently, they have started to change things around, and this is a good sign. But what they seriously need is an expansion. There should move their archives and research off site and open up all the space to exhibitions, or build an addition to provide more space. IT’s been over 100 years, for crying out loud! And they should have programming every week to bring people in.

    The gift shop is actually pretty good, but obviously is shoehorned in. They need space for a bigger shop and also a nice cafe. Wouldn’t it be nice to have tea overlooking Hoyt Lake and the Creek?

    In fact, it could be part of a larger project to enhance the area. You can reconnect to the park as planned, but have a better pedestrian/bicycle experience to connect this museum to the Albright Knox and the Burchfield Penney museums. After all, this is our museum district. The addition should have a permanent exihibit on the Olmsted park system, thereby making Delaware Park the fourth “museum” in the district.

    • Matthew Moje

      Love your ideas, I think that there is going to be an Olmsted exhibit at the Richardson Olmsted complex when it and the architecture center opens!

      • Rand503

        Thanks! I didn’t know that there would be an Olmsted exhibit at the Richardson. Good to know.

    • No_Illusions

      “Wouldn’t it be nice to have tea overlooking Hoyt Lake and the Creek?”

      Wow, that’s actually a great idea. I’m surprised they don’t do that. Easy way to raise some additional funding from the park goers.

    • buffaloconnie

      Love your passion! But gotta say, the WAR of 1812 exhibit, free docent- tours, ancillary programs that ran for two years once a month with collaborating partners (1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council, Black Rock Historical Society, Warren Glover – to name a few) were hardly “nothing.”

      • Rand503

        I was envisioning a region-wide two year celebration of the war that would involve students from all the area schools. To wit:

        Military re-enactments of the various battles.
        Maps and tours and history lessons of every building still existing pre-1814 in the region, and especially highlighting anything that related to the war, like cemeteries.
        It’s a forgotten war, and a misunderstood one: so seminars, workshops, and historical revisions are needed. Scholars and historians could have been invited from the US, Canada, Britain, and the various Indian nations that fought on both sides could have been invited.
        Teach students in all area schools what life was like back then: What did people eat, how did they live, what did the landscape look like, what were common trades and occupations?

        My point was to offer lots of cultural and historical programming over a two year period that would be coordinated with all these nations so that we could promote it all as tourism. You know, like how Philadelphia has a lot of tourism from the singing of the Declaration of Independence. People come far and wide there to see the building and the Liberty bell, and the (fake) Betsy Ross house. We have at least as much, and this could have not only generated a lot of tourism, but would have laid the groundwork for a re-evaluation of the importance of the war of 1812, and Buffalo could be a permanent part of our tourist industry..

        In fact, I wrote this all up several years ago and BRO was kind enough to run it. Nothing came of it, and we missed a terrific opportunity to get some international press.

        They also missed the boat for they of the centennial planning, of the Pan Am exhibition. With a bit of planning, they could have gotten the cooperation of all the american countries, and even the Organization of American States, where I aksed several

  • Ra Cha Cha

    Great news! Congrats to the fine folks at the Buffalo History Museum.

    I agree with Rand about a better linkage between the north and south portions of the museum district. That linkage was broken with construction of the Scajaquada Expressway and the realignment of the Elmwood Avenue bridge. An opportunity to “reset” that or “realign” that (see what I did there: more “re-” words) came and went recently when the Elmwood bridge was “reconstructed” on its post-198 alignment.

    But that might create the opportunity to do something even more interesting. The old alignment of Elmwood Avenue is still there. Perhaps it could be used to create an elegant pedestrian bridge linking the Albright-Knox and the history museum. Perhaps even something like a “garden” bridge. A UB planning class took a look at this a year or so ago and came up with some intriguing concepts.

    • Rand503

      Terrific idea. An elegant pedestrian AND bicycle bridge. I am thinking about the bridge over the Seine in Paris for pedestrians, but combining with a bike would be great because then bikers could enter the Park on Elmwood and exit on Delaware Ave on the other side. A full bike lane dedicated throughout the park is what is needed, with spurs off that to the Casino, the Zoo, the shops on Parkside, and so on.

      But ultimately, we need a way to reconnect the history museum back to the art galleries, visually and accessibly,

    • buffaloconnie

      Thank you! We’re working on some the suggestions on this thread. Love to hear the ideas.

      • Ra Cha Cha

        REally? REmarkable!

  • Matthew Ricchiazzi

    Looks like a good project, but the History Museum should really be moved into the vacant second floor of the Central Library. There would be a great synergy between BECHS and BECPL is co-located. The Pan Am building at Delaware Park would then be available as an Albright Knox expansion gallery.

  • OldFirstWard

    I would like to see the History Museum, and Central Library collaborate and determine what the mission of each institution will be going forward. That collaboration could see the addition of a sports museum, genealogy research center along with a building and property research center. Obviously, the genealogy research center would be a better fit at the downtown Library and the building and property research center would work well at the History Museum. The sports museum needs to have its own dedicated space. That should be in a building at Canalside.

    I realize that the sports memorabilia is probably a big draw at the History Museum but it does seem to be outside the scope of the museum collection. A permanent collection would be a better fit, run by the museum and in its own building. Being an extension of the Elmwood History Museum would not preclude a Canalside Sports Museum from sharing exhibits with the main location.

    I would also like to see the museum make better use of the auditorium space. Buffalo needs to have mainstream authors, historians and architects come to the museum for lectures and book signings on regular intervals. Buffalo has been deprived of these great writers and speakers for years.

    Lastly, some signage out at the end of the lot facing Elmwood. Yeah, this stuff costs money, but if Buffalo can find money in its budget for $15 to $20 million dollars of police overtime YEARLY, then it can afford the find a couple million for these projects. BTW, the new casino additions will be online this year which means more revenue to share with the city, fight for a portion of that additional share before Mayor Brown stashes it in the General Fund.

    • Rand503

      “I would also like to see the museum make better use of the auditorium space. Buffalo needs to have mainstream authors, historians and architects come to the museum for lectures and book signings on regular intervals. Buffalo has been deprived of these great writers and speakers for years.”

      Totally agree. Perhaps a collaboration with Just Buffalo Poetry Series?

      I think the folks here at BRO have more imagination for our culturals than they do themselves. You have to think beyond the same old same old if you want to attract newer and bigger crowds, not to mention donations.