Ohio Memory Project Makes History Accessible Online

March 1, 2003 marked the official start of celebrations of the 200th Anniversary of Ohio Statehood. While celebrations note the passing of the occasion, libraries and archives, museums and historical societies have joined together to create a permanent resource featuring the documents and objects that played an important role in the development of the state.

Hosted by the Ohio Historical Society, the Ohio Memory Online Scrapbook is an interactive “virtual attic” of the state’s past, including more than 25,000 images of photographs, artifacts, manuscripts, natural history specimens, and published materials. The Center for Archival Collections (CAC) of University Libraries has been recognized as one of the major contributors to this digital scrapbook, preparing background information and scanning materials from more than one hundred of its collections.

Among the CAC’s contributions are Civil War era letters of private Andrew Altman, campus activities at BGSU throughout its history, product catalogs from DeVilbiss Corporation and Garwood Industries, Vadae Meekison correspondence on the Ohio Woman Suffrage movement, and a tourism promotional pamphlet from the 1950s.

Some of the images document important milestones in Ohio’s past or the lives of famous Ohioans. Still other collections, such as prehistoric artifacts, quilts, clothing, and furniture, as well as family letters or local government records offer glimpses into everyday life.

Visitors to the electronic scrapbook can search for specific information by the name of the contributing organization, by the geographic area, or by one of five subject categories: Ohio Citizenship; Economy; People; Culture; and Environment. A brief history of each item and its place in history appears with a thumbnail view of the image. Click on the image to see a full-screen view for detailed study. Korean War era letters, for instance, not only appear as they were written, but also contain a complete transcript, as well as notes about the author.

A special feature allows users to create their own scrapbooks of their favorite images and information and to add annotations of their own. Teachers may find this feature especially useful for classroom projects, for subjects ranging from history to biology, literature, and sports.

Ohio Memory Online Scrapbook is a collaborative, statewide project managed by the Ohio Historical Society. Some 320 organizations across the state participated. Project partners include the Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN), OhioLINK, the Ohio Library Council, the Information Network for Ohio Schools (INFOhio), and the Ohio Bicentennial Commission. In September the American Association for State and Local History honored the Project with its Award of Merit, the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. The award was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout America.

– Lee N. McLaird, Curator of Rare Books