Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham

Many might be surprised to learn that New York State's "Arts and Cultural Affairs Law" provides that a "local historian shall be appointed, as provided in this section, for each city, town or village". The law further provides that:

"It shall be the duty of each local historian, appointed as provided in the last section, in cooperation with the state historian, to collect and preserve material relating to the history of the political subdivision for which he or she is appointed, and to file such material in fireproof safes or vaults in the county, city, town or village offices." See N.Y. Laws 1983, Ch. 876 §§ 1, et al.

The law has been in effect in one form or another since 1913. For its derivation, see Education Law § 150, added N.Y. Laws 1947, ch. 820; and repealed by N.Y. Laws 1983, ch. 876 § 4. Said § 150 was from Education Law of 1910 § 1199-a, formerly § 1198, added N.Y. Laws 1913, ch. 424, § 1 (renumbered § 1199-a, N.Y. Laws 1919, ch. 181, § 2).

Pelham has complied with what is called the "Historian's Law" since the law was first enacted. During the last 92 years, eight local residents have served as Town Historian and have collected and maintained material in accordance with that law on behalf of the residents of The Town of Pelham.

Today the Historian's Office is a small room located in the basement at the rear of The Richard J. Daronco Town House located at 20 Fifth Avenue. The principal archives of the Office are located in steel cabinets in that room.  [Editor's Note:  Since this posting was first published, the office has been moved to a second floor office with storage of material in the old choir loft of the Daronco Town House.]  

The office maintains an extensive index card catalog that cross-references the Town's historical collections. The card catalog was created by Susan Swanson and Mimi Buckley when they served as Town Historian and Deputy Town Historian, respectively. There is a steel five-drawer flat case in which maps and other over-sized items are stored. There are building files in which folders keyed to building addresses throughout the town contain information for many, many of the structures in town. There are artifact files in which items related to the history of the Town are filed. There is a standing file cabinet containing photographic prints of historical significance as well as bibliographic and obituary files for prominent residents in the Town's history.

There is a four file cabinet containing the Town's "clippings files" in which thousands of newspaper and publication clippings regarding historical developments in the history of the Town are maintained. Standing cabinets contain microfilm, video and film collections as well as glass negatives, photographs and artifacts related to the history of the Town.

The collections include hundreds of books that relate to the Town's history. Though crowded, the office constitutes the principal collection of material assembled by Town Historians during the last 92 years.


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