By Douglas Platt, Contributor
A museum’s collection is a critical part of its existence, the wellspring from which its exhibits originate and the storehouse for inquisitive researchers. The Museum of disABILITY History Collection includes books, photographs, documents, newsletters, adaptive equipment, movies, toys, clothing, stamps, postcards and sound recordings all related to the rich history of individuals with disabling conditions. Strategic purchases have been made by the staff of the museum through the generosity of our Parent company, People Inc., but over the years our collection has been bolstered by our very generous donors.
A few years ago a gentleman visited the museum just to look around; he remarked that he had noticed our sign as he was on his way to work, at the University at Buffalo. After a tour of our exhibits he mentioned that he would be retiring from his position as an instructor of Vocational Rehabilitation, and wondered if the museum would care to accept some items he had collected over the twenty-some years of teaching. He would return the next week with about four boxes of materials that chronicled the Polio Era, 283 books and magazines that spanned four decades of disABILITY History.
The relationship between the Western New York Developmental Disabilities Service Office and People Inc. is over forty years old, and as the DDSO was preparing for closure, its staff reached out to the Museum to help preserve its history. The WNY DDSO collection consists of over five hundred items, one prominently on display in our gallery is a Ludwig Weather-Master Bass Drum, used by the State School Band.
Late this last summer, a person who has been involved in the field of disability and employment donated her collection of journals she had written for, and an almost complete nineteen year run of Ragged Edge magazines.
We have also been fortunate to receive smaller, more personal artifacts, such as these infant shoes. The donor related her story of being born with a leg-length discrepancy that affected her ability to walk, but not her ability to achieve (she also donated a “Woman of the Year” plaque she had received from a local charitable organization.)
I would be remiss if I did not mention the very first item donated to the museum, a J. N. Adam Developmental Center paperweight, a souvenir of the 1993 closure ceremony. This was donated by the founder of the museum, Dr. James M. Boles. The collection that bears his name now stands at four hundred items (and counting.)
In this season of generosity and thankfulness, I would like to thank all of the donors, past present and future, to the Museum of disABILITY History.