Since 1960, the Ohio Local History Alliance has led the state in recognizing excellent projects, programs, and publications produced by Ohio’s historical societies, museums, and related organizations, as well as the individuals who make them happen. Through the Outstanding Achievement Awards, the Alliance spotlights exemplary local history programs, exhibits, media, and publications with the History Outreach Award. The Individual Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have greatly contributed to Ohio’s historical societies and to the understanding of local history.
To nominate yourself or others for this year’s awards, check out the Outstanding Achievement Awards page.
In 2011, the Alliance awarded twelve Outstanding Achievement Awards at the Ohio Local History Alliance annual meeting. The projects awarded ranged from summer camps to storage renovations, and many things in between.
History Outreach Awards
Organizations with Budgets Under $25,000
- North Canton Heritage Society
– Talking to Jacob, A one-act play
Little was known about Jacob Gaskins of New Berlin (now North Canton) until the North Canton Heritage Society (NCHS) co-sponsored an effort to have an Underground Railroad marker erected to tell his story: that of a freed slave from Virginia who was the first African American resident in the area. After the marker, the NCHS felt that they needed to do more to make Mr. Gaskins come to life. Using a grant from their local Target store, the NCHS produced a play by local playwright, Lois DiGiacomo. The NCHS also created and distributed a teacher’s guide and student handbook for all 3rd grade students prior to their attendance at the play and turned the general public’s interest in the production into a fundraising opportunity—a dinner hosted prior to a performance. During the play itself, the audience learned about Jacob and his wife, Hannah, a Quaker, and their involvement in the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War. The award committee felt this was an excellent example of public programming reaching the 3rd grade social studies benchmarks while also tying local history to national history. Accepting the award was Kathleen M. Fernandez, North Canton Heritage Society.
- Russell Township Historical Society
– A Pictorial History of Russell Township
According to one member of the Russell Township Historical Society: “One evening at our monthly meeting [in 2005], while passing around newly donated pictures for our many notebooks and boxes of historic memorabilia, someone asked “What are we going to do with all this stuff we have been collecting?” Another member said, “Why don’t we write a book.” So, they did! After meeting on the 3rd Saturday of the month for 4 years, it was delivered on Easter Monday 2010. Finally, their 304-paged, “Russell Green,” cover book about the township’s 200 year history was ready to share with the community. Award committee judges agreed with a statement from one of the letters of support that mentioned that this work was an “important milestone in preserving the heritage of our community.” It has a great index, along with works cited sources, appendices of local officials, war veterans and photo credits. Accepting the award were Christine Livers, Jeanne Schroeder and Mary Mobilia of the Russell Township Historical Society.
Organizations with Budgets Over $25,000
- Shelby County Historical Society
– “Honoring Those Who Serve: Healing Field of Flags,” A Vietnam Experience Exhibit
In 2008, Shelby County was suffering from divisiveness in the community, split by a school levy vote while suffering 10% unemployment. At this time, Shelby County Historical Society decided to take on the task of hosting the travelling version Vietnam Wall as part of their Vietnam Experience exhibit. The historical society board came under scrutiny for taking on such a large financial commitment of bringing the Wall to the community. It eventually received a lot of community support prompted by weekly articles in the Sidney Daily News, which earned the paper an Associated Press award. The end result touched the entire community. The program was completed by volunteers. On September 1, 2010, the rolling thunder of over 2,500 motorcycles escorted the Wall from Wapakoneta to Custenboard Park in Sidney as 10,000 patriotic people lined the sides of the highway to watch the motorcade. By September 12, 2010, over 1,000 flags were waving in the wind—sold by the historical society representing past and present soldiers. The award was accepted by Tilda Phlipot, Shelby County Historical Society.
- Dennison Railroad Depot Museum
– T-County History Patriot Youth Rally
The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum created awareness and enthusiasm for history among the county’s young people as they organized what became an amazing, first-time event that drew 2,000 visitors to see and hear the stories that make up Tuscarawas County’s history. An advisory council of local partners, teachers, elected officials, volunteers and—most importantly—kids, presented the county’s multifaceted history from the Revolutionary War to World War II and everything in between. The first obstacle was finding a location where young people were already hanging out. It was decided that the “coolest place” was New Towne Mall in New Philadelphia. The council worked with the mall and decided on a February date after Valentine’s Day, so the event would also prompt spending at the mall during a typically slow time of year. The Depot was creative in its advertising, “leaking” details during their Polar Express program, distributing flyers, shooting a spoof video for high school students and placing teasers on Facebook to “Rock Your History.” Through the assistance of great financial and creative partners, the T-County History Patriot Youth Rally provided students with the opportunity to meet over 60 organizations, 50 volunteers and more than 30 re-enactors, impersonators and presenters throughout the mall. A historic fashion show was presented alongside current day fashions and the photo contest results were posted on Facebook. One of the fun and unexpected activities of the day was the spontaneous flash mob consisting of rivals Dover and New Philadelphia High School choirs singing Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” This extremely successful event reached its core audience of youth in the community and next year’s is scheduled for February 2012. The award was accepted by Wendy Zucal, The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, and Kate Smith, AmeriCorps CW150 Leadership Corps Member.
- Oberlin Heritage Center Summer Camp Programs
– “It’s the Best Camp I Have Ever Been To”
Children’s programming has been an integral part of the Oberlin Heritage Center since 1993 when Patricia Murphy became its director. Since that time, the organization has continued to expand its services and outreach especially regarding camp programs. In 2007, Oberlin Heritage Center was able to hire a museum education and tour coordinator to take over the development and running of the camp program. Coordinator Elizabeth Schultz’s energy, creativity and experience working with high school volunteers and college interns prompted the formation of a Junior Docent Camp for students age 13-17. With social service requirements set by local schools, the staff worked to develop a program to assist the students and educate them about their local history at the same time. $50 of the $75 Junior Docent Camp cost was reimbursed if the student completed 15 hours of service for the Heritage Center by the end of the year. Another successful program was introduced in 2010 entitled The Local Inventors and Innovators Camp. While capturing young imaginations and exploring a lesser known side of Oberlin’s history, Schultz was able to connect the organization and students with science learning and hands-on experimentation. Staff members documented the response of attendees and their parents and they can say that “All who attend the Oberlin Heritage Center’s camps come away with a new appreciation for history in general and for local history in particular. They discover that ‘cool stuff’ is part of history.” The OLHA award judges wish that they could attend these camps.
- Warrem County Historical Society
– HistoricaLog Newsletter
Due to the diligent efforts of the Daughters of the American Revolution, The Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio was recognized as “Ohio’s oldest hotel” by Governor Bricker in 1940. Civic and patriotic organizations gathered to establish a local historical society as a result of this designation and their first newsletter was distributed for July–August 1943. Ten years later, the HistoricaLog was introduced to the membership; few format changes were made to it until the 1990s. With a mission to “uncover and preserve the rich history of their county,” the newsletter has become the disseminator of the historical society’s activities and illustrated journal of the rich history in Warren County and southwest Ohio. For the winter 2011 edition, a decision was made to produce a work more scholarly in nature that would provide a more in depth and informative look at individuals, places and events that helped form and sustain the region. Articles are written by the museum curator, assistant curator, archaeologist-in-residence and historian. Newer residents to the area state that it is a “great vehicle for us to learn about, appreciate and explore further the colorful history of Warren County.” School teachers use the information for students because it’s relevant to traditions and legacies of local heritage while also teaching important civic principles. The award was accepted by John Zimkus, Warren County Historical Society.
- Marion County Historical Society
– School Activity Book
Teachers in Marion area requested instructional and reference materials focusing on content standards. This material had to be historically accurate, easily incorporated into classroom instruction, and readily available for school districts with limited financial resources. The Marion County Historical Activity Book is a result of these requests and a need to provide a book on Marion’s history that would appeal to a general audience and help provide revenue to MCHS. Project developer Randy Winland collaborated with five retired elementary school teachers, local artists, a graphic designer and the director of Marion County Historical Society starting in October 2010. Within six weeks, they had a draft version of a publication to meet the Ohio Department of Education Academic Content Standards for Social Studies, grades 3 and 4. Each elementary school was provided with two free copies. The workbook was highlighted in the Marion Star newspaper and on local radio just in time to hit the holiday shopping season. And, the best news is that the entire work was funded by sponsors and produced at no cost to the historical society. All sales profits go directly to the organization. Educators say that it is a “real service to the community and helped them fill the gaps when teaching Marion and Marion County history.” Receiving the award was Randy Winland, Marion County Historical Society.
- Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens
– Stan Hywet Magazine
Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron publishes a four-color magazine twice a year. The visually appealing work is mailed to each member household with additional copies distributed by the marketing and development teams or as guest mementos. This publication has become Stan Hywet’s most complete promotional vehicle allowing them to stay in touch with members, potential donors and promotional partners. Featured stories focus on history, architecture, gardens and preservation of the estate. A detailed calendar of events that members and guests can use to plan visits to the property for tours and special programs is also provided. Designed, written and edited by the in-house marketing team, Stan Hywet Magazine’s compelling graphics and engaging photos produce a result that is specifically tailored to this organization. Award judges enjoyed the article from the spring publication entitled “The Power of Innovation,” linking the Seiberling family and their rubber manufacturing companies to the innovation and pioneering spirit of the era. The committee also wanted to highlight the numerous articles focusing on planned giving, tribute gifts and contributions to the annual fund. We could learn from their tactful expression of financial requirements and needs in a way that will draw the attention of potential donors. Accepting the award was Gailmarie K. Fort, Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens.
- Decorative Arts Center of Ohio
– “Equal in Goodness: Ohio Decorative Arts 1788-1869” Exhibit
Andrew Richmond, curator of this exhibit, and the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster provide for us an exemplary model for public-private partnership. The partners brought together resources, talent and expertise from the Decorative Arts Center, Garth’s Auctions in Delaware and a wide range of private collectors and specialists. “Equal in Goodness” focused exclusively on Ohio-made objects including furniture, metalware, glassware, ceramics, quilts, coverlets and samplers along with a few paintings, prints and maps. The exhibit debunks the myths of early frontier life filled with leather fringed clothing, coonskin caps and log cabins. Early Ohio was populated by settlers who had strong cultural ties to other places and they brought with them an established sense of style. Decorative art objects can offer some of the most compelling evidence of the cultural origins of both their makers and their users. Research conducted for the exhibition catalog revealed that within a decade, the multi-ethnic population of Ohio was constructing fine homes and public buildings, and creating beautiful decorative arts. Featuring over 200 artifacts from “individuals who came west seeking a better life,” “Equal in Goodness” text, labeling, and the exhibition catalog produced a visually appealing look at early 19th century Ohio. The award was accepted by Julie Parke, director of the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio.
- Warren County Historical Society
– “Pottery Discoveries at Union Village: Unearthing a Shaker Industry” Exhibit
Union Village was the only known Shaker community that sold pottery to produce revenue. The earliest mention of pottery sales in the area was 1813, in reference to pipe production. The last evidence of their works dates to 1851. In 2005, the Ohio Department of Transportation began excavations in the area as part of a road alignment project. Due to the historical importance of the site, an archaeological review was necessary to extract artifacts and record data. The exhibit that Warren County Historical Society developed includes the items collected on this dig. The first task required accessioning and categorizing all the shards and one red earthenware jar, mostly intact. Artifacts already in the historical society collection were instrumental in documentation and comparison purposes. They were able to construct a Shaker style cabinet similar to those made in Union Village to display these artifacts with descriptive and comprehensive labels. Text was enhanced with examples of sales ads from period newspapers. Photographs and maps were also used to provide more detail as to how the pottery work was completed and where the kilns were located. The exhibit was made possible with assistance from local philanthropic organizations. The award was accepted by Jessica Thress, Warren County Historical Society.
- Massillon Museum
– Storage Renovation Project and Velma B. Erwin Research Room
Massillon Museum is an art and history museum located in the center of downtown Massillon. Besides carrying out basic museum functions of collecting, exhibiting, preserving and educating, the organization has a responsibility for creating access to its collections. In 1996, the museum moved into its current structure, an historic 1930s art deco building with 3rd floor storage. It was an ineffective use of space without adequate monitoring or storage for collections. By 2004, improvement of the collections storage area became top priority. The staff put together a step-by-step plan, wrote a new collections management policy, and participated in the Collections Assessment Program (CAP) to determine short and long-term goals for improvements to the collections. Staff began assessing environmental conditions and needs in 2005, and the museum was successful in securing the first of two Conservation Project Support (CPS) grants from the Institute of Museum and Library services (IMLS) for the planning storage renovation. The curator spent three summers taking coursework in collections care from the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation which helped to leverage additional funding. IMLS awarded a second CPS grant to purchase storage equipment for the new space in 2009. It was complemented by a state designation from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission to fund all hard costs associated with the project including a new HVAC system. Contract work started December 14, 2009 and construction was completed the following December. It is the hope of the Massillon Museum staff that their collections storage renovation project serve as an example to other institutions in Northeast Ohio of how to implement best practices in collections care. The award was accepted by Mandy Pond, of the Massillon Museum.
Individual Achievement Award
- Clinton County History Center
– Kay Fisher, Executive Director
Kay started out as a Region 7 representative for the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums (now Ohio Local History Alliance) in 2000. The regions were realigned in 2002, so Kay moved over to Region 8 and continued on the board until 2003. Kay returned to the board in 2004 as its secretary, and she served in this role from 2005 until this year. With a Masters of Science in Business, she was hired as the director of the Clinton County Historical Society in 1997. Through Kay’s tenure, the Rombach home, the society’s museum was expanded to add a community meeting room, a large research library, and upgraded to make the entire structure ADA compliant. Through her leadership, Clinton County Historical Society has also displayed a number of special exhibits from “Undercover,” looking at Victorian ladies undergarments, to “The Power of the Purse”, featuring vintage purses from the historical society collection. As the head of a not-for-profit that does not receive county or city funding, Kay has been working diligently to make the public aware of the Clinton County History Center’s role in the community preserving gems of the region such as historic photographs; assisting with genealogical research and housing artifacts unique to Clinton County. Kay can also be found giving presentations to organizations and schools sharing the stories of the people from her region. These stories along with the artifacts that represent them are what she refers to as the museum’s most valuable items. Her story of perseverance and skill is important to Clinton Historical Society, the Ohio Local History Alliance and to history in Ohio.