January 4, 2022 Photographic Archive Project
Photographic Archives of the Region Celebrating 200 Years of Erie County
It’s time to make them accessible!
“Old photographs are one of the best and most lasting ways for us to understand the past. They present a moment in time, perfectly described, exactly as that moment appeared to the maker of the image.”
Scott Rucker for CEPA Gallery, 1980.
Since its inception, The Center for Exploratory & Perceptual Arts, has made a point to gather and exhibit the photographic memory of Erie County. Through various projects such as “Buffalo’s Photographic Past” initiated in 1979, or “Portraits of Buffalo” in 1977, CEPA has gathered, and preserved historical images taken in the area through a public collaboration and deep dive in local attics and basements. Members of the community have always been encouraged to bring their old photographs to the center where the staff seeks to identify the photographer, the year the image was produced, and makes recommendations for the care of these images. Through these efforts we have amassed an historically significant collection of faces, buildings and localities.
However, CEPA has not historically been a collecting institution, and as such, it has never had the permanent infrastructure to allow the public to access this vast collection.
In conjunction with the Bicentennial Celebration of Erie County, CEPA, through generous support from Jason Hurley, Erie County’s Director Of Community Affairs, and sponsorship from The Baird Foundation, The M&T Charitable Foundation, The John R. Oishei Foundation, CEPA will now make this collection available to the public through digital exhibition and archiving.
In order to digitize this early photograph collection, we will join forces with The Buffalo History Museum and the Greg D. Tranter Collection of Buffalo Bills Memorabilia to employ an Archiving Fellow who will help us to scan, catalog, and document the collection for publication on a ArcGIS virtual Story Map website that the community will be able to access.
From this, we will not only activate our assets and make this collection permanently accessible to the public through the World Wide Web, but also will eventually be able to further grow and study its historical importance for the area while we continue to record and gather photographs of the region. This archiving project will allow us to create a permanent resource to benefit Erie County residents, historians, and artists for years to come through a publicly accessible archive. In Phase 1, The Buffalo History Museum and CEPA Gallery have combined resources and efforts to make our simultaneous archive projects successful, working together for the Buffalo community to offer unique opportunities to preserve and revitalize our history! Both organizations seek to inspire personal connections to our regional stories, strengthening the fabric of the Western New York Community, and learning and exploring the past, present, and future together.
“This administrative collaboration will allow us to hire a shared Archivist with a full-time schedule, including benefits, providing a much better career opportunity for a scholar right here in Buffalo. We strive for both our archive projects to build upon each other through this partnership.” -Greg D. Tranter, President of the Board at The Buffalo History Museum.
This project is aligned with CEPA’s strategic commitment to provide meaningful professional opportunities for cultural workers, right here in Buffalo. CEPA continues to serve the region as an innovative leader in visual anthropology, active learning, and exploratory arts.