Oral History Project

The UB Center for Disability Studies is embarking on a multiyear, multi-stage oral history project. Stage one of the oral history project will focus on the West Seneca Developmental Center.

“West Seneca Developmental Center opened in October 1962 for the stated purposes of relieving overcrowded conditions in other state facilities and for serving Western New York State. In 1974, the name was changed from West Seneca State School to West Seneca Developmental Center to reflect a change in philosophy and mission. West Seneca Developmental Center occupied 19 residential buildings, 2 program buildings, and 13 support buildings spread over 439 acres. When it opened, parents in Western New York whose children were in institutions far from home welcomed the new center. West Seneca Developmental Center started with 30 residents, and reached its largest population in 1971 with 1,710 individuals. After this point, the population slowly declined as residents moved into the community.” -- Kathryn Lawton, PhD candidate, Department of History, research assistant UBCDS.

We will be gathering oral histories of former residents at West Seneca, as well as their families and center employees.

If you would like to learn more about the project, please read the following grant proposals:

Civic Engagement and Public Policy Research Fellowship Program, 2011-2012

Digital humanities small research project funding, January 2012