My final semester here at SUNY Cortland is coming to an end, with my classes and internship ending in just two more weeks. I have enjoyed the experiences I have gained at the Cortland Fire Department, and I am thankful for all of the skills I have developed from this opportunity. From finding newspapers, old training manuals, to old photographs, I have been working towards determining the importance of documents, as well as creating an organized historical archive. This internship has allowed me the opportunity to develop my professional skills as a historian such as organization, historical preservation, and analytical skills.
The most monotonous and difficult task of this entire internship was sifting through the containers and containers full of old documents, photographs, and notes from the past historian. He saved a lot of sources that were important to him, but lacked any real meaning or connection to the fire department. It took some time to develop a system of organization, and most of my time has been spent just simply going through each individual source. Some documents, such as old financial records and letters were difficult in determining their retention period, but for the most part it has been pretty simple deciding which documents to keep or to throw away. The documents that have been saved have given me such an interesting outlook and viewpoint into the past of the fire department and the evolution from where it began to now. Learning of all of the different fire companies that once functioned independently, to the creation of the historical landmark that is the Cortland Fire house, I have learned so much about Cortland, its citizens, and its surrounding communities.
Now that the end is approaching, my projects have shifted slightly as I am now in the process of organizing and categorizing all of the information I have uncovered. Through the use of binders, I am organizing the historical information into different categories such as company histories, firetrucks and equipment history, and a historical timeline of important fires fought by the Cortland Fire department. I was also given the important task of helping to develop the new website created by the department. I am working on creating a new historical page with a summarized timeline, along with historical photos that allow us to glimpse into the past of the firefighters and their dedication.
Some of the most interesting discoveries I have uncovered in the archives, are the blueprints to the historical landmark that is the Firehouse, as well as individual and group pictures of the Emerald Hose Company of 1878. The blueprints were so intriguing for their intricacy and attention to detail, and they give an insight to the development of an important piece of Cortland’s history. While the company photos are simply a box of photos of the members of the Emerald Hose Company, those pictures represent the diversity of Cortland as a community as well as the foundation that was laid by the dedication of these members which paved the way for future firefighters.
I am saddened that this experience has come to an end, because I feel like there is so much work left for me to do. However, I am proud for the work that I have done and will continue to do in my contribution to preserving Cortland’s history.
By: Kortnee Gilmore, spring 2019