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Finding Aid for the Lynn Corcoran In Our Own Backyard: The First Love Canal Collection, 1979/1982

MS 158

State University of New York at Buffalo. University Archives

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
United States
Phone: 716-645-2916
Fax: 716-645-3714
Email: lib-archives@buffalo.edu
URI: http://library.buffalo.edu/archives/

Finding aid prepared by Karen Spencer.
Finding aid encoded in EAD by Karen Spencer, April 2010.
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid prepared using local best practices.

Please use the following URL when citing this document:

© 2010. State University of New York at Buffalo. All rights reserved.

Collection Overview

Title: Lynn Corcoran In Our Own Backyard: The First Love Canal Collection, 1979-1982
Creator: Corcoran, Lynn
Extent: 5 linear feet (4 cartons with 75 videocassettes)
Material specifications: 3/4 inch U-matic videotape
Language of Material: Collection material in English.
Repository: State University of New York at Buffalo. University Archives
Abstract: A portion of the original video footage shot for the PBS documentary, "In Our Own Backyard", produced by Lynn Corcoran, with detailed tape log notes.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Description and dates], Box/folder number, MS 158, Lynn Corcoran In Our Own Backyard: The First Love Canal Collection, 1979-1982, University Archives, State University of New York at Buffalo.

See the Special Collections' preferred citations instructions for additional information.

Acquisition Information

Collection was donated by Lynn Corcoran, November 2009.

Terms of Access

Lynn Corcoran In Our Own Backyard: The First Love Canal Collection, 1979-1982, is open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from or reproducing materials in the collection. Please see archivist for details on obtaining copyright permission.

Processing Information

Processed by Karen Spencer, April 2010.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Biographical Note

Lynn Corcoran began making documentaries in 1974. Her independently - produced work has examined the relationships between citizens and government in areas including community renewal, health care, housing and the environment. Documentaries about the environment include In Our Own Backyard, which chronicles events at Love Canal and examines how citizen and government participants viewed the central issues the disaster raised. Testing the Waters considers the complex international effort to chart a future for the polluted Niagara River, at the US - Canada border. Borderline Cases is a view of the effort to repair the environmental damage at the US - Mexico border that resulted from rapid, unregulated industrialization -- the building of nearly 2,000 foreign-owned factories, or maquiladoras.

Corcoran’s work has been broadcast nationally on PBS and on TLC (The Learning Channel) and it has received awards including a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival, a Cine Golden Eagle, Best of Category at the Audubon Environmental Film Festival, and awards from the Athens Film and Video Festival and the US Film and Video Festival.

Her independently - produced documentaries have been supported by grants from the New York Council for the Humanities, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Beldon Foundation, and the US/Mexico Fund for Culture / Fideicomiso para la Cultura México/USA, (Rockefeller Foundation). She has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the New York Creative Artists Fellowship Program.

She produced 65 one-hour programs of The Frontier, a nationally-distributed series featuring the work of independent filmmakers and videomakers, for the Buffalo - Toronto PBS affiliate, WNED-TV. She has been a Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, and has lectured and conducted workshops throughout the country. Since 1978, she has worked as a video producer, director and editor of independent and commercial productions.

Historical Note

Lynn Corcoran produced the documentary In Our Own Backyard: The First Love Canal in 1982. Copyright and distribution rights are held by Bullfrog Films, Inc., Oley, Pennsylvania 19547. The documentary aired on Public Broadcast System (PBS) stations. The container notes give this synopsis: A brilliant video documentary on the nation's first encounter with toxic waste, it provides a complete and moving account of the way the people involved, both in government and in the community, responded to a frightening situation. It shows the complexity of the democratic process in action, as government officials struggled with a new set of questions -- weighing not only what government should do, but what it could do in the first environmental emergency of its kind -- while residents formed their own views of these questions and developed strategies including public protest and a skillful use of the media to influence government's response. The following awards followed:

• Blue Ribbon, American Film Festival
• Best of Category, Audubon International Environmental Film Festival
• Third Place Award, U.S. Film and Video Festival
• Merit Award, Athens International Film and Video Festival
• Honorable Mention, Global Village 8th Annual Documentary Festival
Background information on Love Canal including historical chronologies and a glossary of individuals, organizations and terminology is available here .


Historical chronologies for Love Canal are available here and here .

Scope and Content Note

Collection contains a portion of the original 3/4 inch U-matic video footage shot for the documentary In Our Own Backyard: The First Love Canal which includes material not in the final production. Footage includes:

• exteriors of the homes before they were torn down, with some context of the streets and the area;
• various public events, meetings, and media events of the Love Canal Homeowners' Association including the day the homeowners took EPA officials "hostage" and the EPA agreed to temporary relocation, and several lively public meetings in which homeowners confronted public officials;
• press conferences held by public officials;
• interviews conducted with public officials, Lois Gibbs, various homeowner activists, Bev Paigen (the chief scientific advisor and advocate), and others.
Also included is file footage from WGR and WNED television stations. Inventory log includes detailed notes on each tape's contents.


This collection is arranged in two series:

Container List

Box Item Contents
1 1-2 Inventory Logs 1979-1982
2 looseleaf binders

Include brief subject and name lists at the front of binder 1 and detailed handwritten logs of each numbered videotape. Highlights include:

• Attorney General Robert Abrams: Tape 18
• Marge Bates, homeowner: 41-43
• Governor Hugh Carey: Tape 37
• Debbie Cerillo, homeowner: Tapes 99, 100-102
• EPA hostage day, May 19, 1980: Tapes 19-21
• EPA temporary relocation: Tapes 25-28
• Jane Fonda: Tape 4
• Lois Gibbs, homeowner: Tapes 25, 121-126
• Patty Grenzy, homeowner: Tapes 60-62
• Homeowners meetings: Tapes 10-12, 32, 34-36, 39-40, 82-85, 118-120
• Hooker Open house: Tape 33
• Grace McCoulf, homeowner: Tapes 73-74
• Niagara County Legislature: Tape 25
• Beverly Paigen, scientist for homeowners: 32, 114-117
• Barbara Quimby, homeowner: Tapes 58-59
• Revitalization Agency: Tapes 93-95
• "Settlement" October 26, 1979: Tape 15
• Phillis Whitenight, homeowner: Tapes 70-71

1 3 Uniform title: In Our Own Backyard: The First Love Canal

1 VHS videotape, 59 minutes

Final production copy from Bullfrog Films, Inc., Oley, Pennsylvania, 19547

1 4-6 WNED footage undated
3 3/4 inch U-matic videocassettes

PBS television station in Buffalo, New York, Channel WNED, file footage provided to Lynn Corcoran for inclusion in the documentary as well as promotional footage for the PBS airing of the documentary (dated 1983).

1 7 WGR footage undated
3/4 inch U-matic videocassette

NBC affiliated television station in Buffalo, New York, WGR, file footage provided to Lynn Corcoran for inclusion in the documentary.

II.     Videotapes, 1979-1982

Includes numbered 3/4 inch U-matic videotapes.

Box Contents
2 Videotapes #1,3,4-6, 10-12, 15-21, 25-28
3 Videotapes #32-37, 39-46, 58-62
4 Videotapes #70-74,81-85, 89, 93-95, 99-102
5 Videotapes #105-108, 114-126

Search Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Library's online catalog.


State University of New York at Buffalo. University Archives


Environmental health--New York (State)--Niagara Falls
Gibbs, Lois Marie
Hazardous waste sites--New York (State)--Niagara Falls
Hooker Chemicals & Plastics Corp
Love Canal Chemical Waste Landfill (Niagara Falls, N.Y.)
Paigen, Beverly



Associated Material

Separated Material

Collected newspaper clippings were removed and indexed for the University Archives' website and are available here.

Related Resources

Related Resources in the University Archives

Related Resources in Other Repositories

Mss. C94-2 , Adeline Levine Love Canal Collection, 1893-1995 (bulk 1978-1995), Research Library, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society