Salamanca historical museum now reopened to public

Salamanca city historian Jim Griffith stands next to a new display at the Salamanca Area Historical Society Museum on the Dudley Hotel, one of a few new attractions at the museum since reopening in mid-July.

SALAMANCA — After an extended closure from the winter months followed by the coronavirus pandemic, the go-to place for Salamanca’s history is now reopened to the public.

At the Salamanca Area Historical Society Museum, at 125 Main St., the staff has been busy cleaning, organizing and updating the building’s contents to offer several new displays.

“When I started this job and realized what a beautiful museum this is and how hard the people worked way ahead of me to get this far, I just shake my head,” said Jim Griffith, who was appointed city historian in January. “It’s unbelievable how much work goes into this.”

The museum opened July 14, and to be compliant with safety regulations, masks are required when inside the museum. Additional signage is also posted on the doors and inside.

“We probably have four or five people a week from outside the local area,” Griffith said. “People are fascinated by the building itself.”

After Griffith was appointed city historian, he immediately began making himself familiar with the museum and its contents, including sorting the thousands of files in the museum basement yet to be combed through and itemized, from physical objects to service organization records to personal pictures.

“Pretty much over the winter, I started cleaning all that out,” he said. “Anything of any interest to anybody that might be historical we kept. And it’s still an ongoing process.”

Meanwhile, museum curator Dr. Gail Thompson has been going through all the physical items for an inventory, assigning each object a number and taking a photo of it for the files. Griffith said Thompson has processed over a thousand items since the museum closed for the winter.

“During the course of the inventory, we’re looking at ‘Does this item belong here in the museum?’ Is it something that reflects Salamanca history in particular?” Griffith explained. “There are some things that just because they’re old doesn’t necessarily mean they belong in the museum.”

Also with the extended period of time closed to the public, Thompson has also developed several new displays on the museum’s main floor about some of Salamanca’s best-known buildings, including the Dowd House, the Dudley Hotel and the post office.

“A display she’s working on right now we’ll be for the old liquor industries that were in town,” Griffith said. “We have a number of old glass bottles for the display.”

Of the recent visitors to the museum, many out-of-towners who may be staying at Allegany State Park or are down for the day from the Buffalo area are amazed by what the museum has, Griffith said, as well as a few locals.

“‘I had no idea that this way here,’ they’ll say,” he said. “They go through the collections and see what’s here and it brings back a lot of fond memories for the local people.”

The Salamanca Area Historical Society Museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information or to schedule a tour, call 945-2946 or email salhistsoc125@hotmail.com.

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