County historian moves upstairs to more spacious office

Photos by Tom Rivers: Catherine Cooper checks out some of the local artifacts that are in the historian’s office. The office moved last month from the basement of the Treasurer’s Office to the top floor of that building at 34 East Park St.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 December 2020 at 3:35 pm

Big celebration on horizon: Orleans County’s bicentennial in 2025

This stack of photos has people who aren’t labelled. Cooper said she would welcome input in identifying this lady in the top photo.

ALBION – The new Orleans County historian in settling into much bigger office space. The historian was working out of the basement in the Treasurer’s Office at 34 East Park St.

Last month the office moved to the upstairs of the building. The computer services department was using the space but moved to the new addition at the County Administration Building.

That left six rooms available for new historian, Catherine Cooper. She has space to process items, organize and store them.

Cooper started in the part-time position on Sept. 14. She retired in June after 33 years at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina, including 10 years as director.

“This position is like an extension of being a librarian,” Cooper said. “You help people find things.”

One of her immediate goals is to take stock of all the photographs and printed materials in the historian’s office. There are many boxes to go through.

“I want to organize and position the collection so all of the contents are findable,” she said.

Catherine Cooper holds a photo of retired County Historian Bill Lattin. This photo was taken on May 3, 1984 by Louis Monacelli. Lattin served in the role for 35 years. He retired Dec. 31, 2014. Cooper said Monacelli left a trove of photos where people are identified and the date recorded on the photographs.

Cooper praised her predecessor Matt Ballard for his efforts in organizing parts of the collection and digitizing some important records. Ballard also wrote a weekly column of local history and gave frequent public presentations.

The new office for the historian looks out at the Orleans County Courthouse and County Clerks’ Building.

Bill Lattin, who served in the role for 35 years before retiring on Dec. 31, 2014, also was superb in the role, writing a local column for the newspaper, giving many public presentations and authoring many books on local history.

Cooper plans to write columns, too, but not at Ballard’s pace. She will work with the local town and village historians. A big anniversary is around the corner. The county’s bicentennial is in 2025. That year is also the 200thanniversary of the Erie Canal opening across the state.

Cooper would like to begin preparing for the county’s big birthday. “There will be a big gala celebration,” she said.

She also is intrigued by older local barns and would like to create a “barn census” with local barn owners sending in photos and information on those structures. Cooper regrets that many of the older wooden barns have collapsed in recent years.

She is grateful for the space in the historian’s office. She finds she can spend hours looking through the photos and records.

“The time really flies by,” she said.

Cooper has office hours on Mondays and Wednesdays. She can be reached in the office at (585) 589-4174 or at