There is a wealth of information in historical records found at libraries and historical societies. If you’ve ever tried looking for some specific information, you know that there can be problems. More often than not, the materials are not indexed, which can be very frustrating when you are looking for specific things. Many institutions started indexing their collections about 25 years ago when computer indexing software became available. These in-house indices have proved invaluable to researchers here at Huntington and at other institutions.
We have been indexing obituaries, birth and wedding announcements from The Daily Star since 1986. Many area obituaries, which are found in scrapbooks in our collection are also indexed and date back to the late 1800s. Indices from other area newspapers have been donated to our collection by people who have spent time compiling them. Staff and volunteers have spent countless hours indexing the items.
Our local history collection focuses on Otsego and Delaware counties, so we index any relevant stories from The Daily Star that cover those two counties. We also have newspaper clippings which are filed and indexed by subject. The newspaper index can also be searched by reporter, subject and date.
The collection houses dozens of scrapbooks, which are all indexed. As an example, Ella Schermerhorn spent most of her life on the family genealogy, which when finished, contained more than 50 volumes and hundreds of names. Before indexing, trying to find someone in this shelf of scrapbooks was tedious, but people can now be quickly located, as with so many other of our scrapbooks.
With more than 5,000 photographs and postcards in our collection, the only hope of quickly finding a picture is by having them indexed. Whether you are looking for a building, street or occasion, you are likely to find it through the index. Old Oneonta pictures show dirt streets, then trolley cars, then pavement with the newly invented cars. Broad Street no longer exists, but we have lots of pictures of the street and buildings that were there. The Fair Grounds in the area of Hudson Street have many beautiful pictures showing all the activities during the annual event. Main Street changes can be seen through the decades as businesses came and went. The current City Hall was built as a post office and we have pictures showing its construction. Lots of memories and information in these collections for viewers of all ages.
It is gratifying to help people find an old picture of their house, or an event they’ve heard about. Researchers, businesses, students and others often are writing a book, article,or paper and need a picture or information for their work. They find it in our collection. Of course, if you just like looking at historical pictures, spending a couple of hours looking through our collections can be a delightful way to pass a couple of hours.
Come take a look at our New York Room collection and lose yourself for a day.
Library Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.
Marie Bruni is director of Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. Her column appears in the community section of The Daily Star every Thursday. Her columns can be found online at www.thedailystar.com/librarycorner.