In 1836, the Young Men’s Association (YMA) was founded in the City of Buffalo. As the center for organized cultural activities in the city, the YMA’s committees dealt with the public library, science, literature and art. In most small towns, the public library is the recipient of all manner of curiosities and interesting objects; consequently, the YMA became the proud owner of numerous specimens, minerals, fossils, shells, insects, pressed plants, sea weeds and various paintings and articles of historic value. The acquisition of these specimens called for a cabinet for their display – thus began the collection that would lead to the Buffalo Museum of Science we have today.
In 1861, as collections and interest in the natural sciences grew, the men decided to organize a Natural History Society. A paper was circulated throughout the city to see who might be interested in pursuing this venture. Signatures included that of former president Millard Fillmore.
The first meeting of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences took place in 1861 and the Honorable George W. Clinton, son of four-term Governor of New York Dewitt Clinton, was elected the first President. The Society’s first home was above the New York and Erie Bank, on the third floor of the Jewett Building in Buffalo.
After several temporary locations and with the support of the City of Buffalo, the Society opened the doors to a magnificent, state-of-the-art facility at the end of Humboldt Parkway on Buffalo’s East Side on January 19, 1929, now known as the Buffalo Museum of Science.
In 1982, the Museum entered a commitment for operation of the 264-acre Tifft Nature Preserve at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor for environmental education. The Preserve, which is just minutes from downtown Buffalo, features five miles of hiking trails, a self-guided nature and fitness trail, a 75-acre freshwater cattail marsh and man-made lakes which attract wildlife throughout the year.
Since 1921, the Museum witnessed several renovations and the attachment in 1990 of the Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet Elementary School in a multi-story addition. The school serves more than 1,100 students and offers specialized science education in the Museum. The Buffalo Museum of Science was the first museum in the nation to have an elementary school both physically and programmatically linked.
The Museum Today
Since 2010, the BMS has been on an aggressive path to renovate all of the museum’s permanent exhibit experiences, transforming its former diorama-based exhibits into eight highly interactive and immersive science studio exhibit spaces. These studios and accompanying workshop spaces leverage collections pieces as a foundation of history and information, and then combine them with immersive exhibits and environments to create modern exhibition spaces. The Museum has also added the Explorations early childhood gallery to its permanent offerings, as well as the National Geographic 3D Cinema presented by M&T Bank.
The Museum has complete this historic transformation with the restoration and reopening of its rooftop Kellogg observatory in July 2018.
A significant part of the Museum’s collection of more than 700,000 specimens pertain to the Greater Niagara Region and form, by far, the most complete record of life in all of its forms in this area in anthropology, botany, entomology, mycology, paleontology and zoology. They provide a good representation of the present and past natural history of the Niagara Frontier of New York and adjacent Ontario, as well as material of worldwide provenance of value in teaching, exhibition and research. The Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences maintains three principal categories of collections: research collections, special collections and teaching collections.
Board of Managers, 2017-2018
Judith A. Feld, MD, MPH, MMM
Susan R. Nowicki
Steven A. Perrigo
John McClure, Ph.D.
Ronald J. Tanski
Philip C. Ackerman
Randall E. Burkard
David A. Busch
Edmund A. Egan, MD
Liesl Folks, Ph.D
Timothy R. Hogues
Onkham Rattanaphasouk, CPA
Paul J. Roman, Jr. JD, Ph.D.
Cynthia A. Schwartz
Scott R. Stenclik
Raymond C. Vaughan, Ph.D.