While roller skating is having a resurgence during the pandemic, a team from Daemen College in collaboration with community partners have been highlighting a part of roller skating history in Buffalo — Skateland, an iconic presence on Buffalo’s East Side for over half a century.
Kiddy Skateland’s current owner, Sue Goggins, donated to Daemen hundreds of photographs showcasing area residents that had decorated the walls of the rink for decades. The photographs were digitized and are preserved in the Daemen Research and Information Commons archive, called the Daemen Digital Commons.
“This online archive chronicles the life experiences and memories of Skateland patrons and helps to evoke nostalgic remembrance of a place that was an integral part of Buffalo’s East Side community,” said Melissa Peterson, director of Daemen’s RIC, the college’s library. “We are proud of the collaboration with our community partners and the efforts of our library digital team to preserve a memorable piece of Buffalo’s history.”
The Skateland photo collection may be viewed at digitalcommons.daemen.edu/skateland_col/. Past and current skaters are invited to contribute their memories to the community photo album at skateland.daemen.edu.
“Roller skating is one of those super unique activities that has a way of bridging many gaps,” said Barrett Gordon, a community partner with The WASH Project who collaborated with Daemen on the project. “It transcends generations, race, religion, and creed.”
The photos “have a common denominator, not only of space or place, but of joy,” added Gordon, an avid skater. “It’s the one thing that runs through all the pictures. They are in the same place, totally different people, totally different times in their lives, a lot of different decades, but they are all in the same place, and most people just look really happy. And, this emanates from the pictures.”
In a key component of the college-community initiative, Daemen students engaged in the project by conducting oral histories as part of the college’s “History Workshop” course taught by Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, assistant professor of history.
“For this project, students in the oral history course added stories to the photo collection, and interviewed skaters of all ages, DJs, and local historians,” said Campbell. “Students also had the opportunity to meet skaters at the Rainbow Rink in Tonawanda and at community events, and did research on Buffalo history in the Grosvenor Room of the Buffalo Public Library.”
After this work was completed, students in Assistant Professor of English Meg Artman’s journalism course then used the interviews and oral histories to write feature articles about the Skateland community.
Other members of the collaborative project team included Kristen Luppino-Gholston, representing Daemen’s Paul A. Saffrin Center for Sustainability and Civic Engagement, Lauren Tent of the CEPA Gallery, and Max Anderson of Open Buffalo.
The effort to digitize the Skateland photos came from Daemen’s selection for the Humanities Research for the Public Good initiative, which is designed to support projects that connect undergraduate researchers and colleges with community partners. As part of the inaugural cohort, Daemen was one of only 25 Council of Independent Colleges member institutions chosen to participate in the initiative’s first year.
CIC’s Humanities Research for the Public Good, which is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, promotes student research at private colleges and universities, addresses issues of public significance, and showcases the rich archival, library, and museum collections at participating institutions.