Since 1960, the Ohio Local History Alliance – in partnership with the Ohio History Connection – has led the state in recognizing excellent projects, programs, publications created by Ohio historical societies and museums, as well as recognizing individuals who have contributed greatly to the field of history.
At the 2018 Annual Meeting, OLHA presented 11 Outstanding Achievement Awards that have inspired, connected, and educated their audiences in Ohio.
History Outreach Awards
Little Miami History Connection – The Third Grade Local History Program
The Third Grade Local History Program is an ongoing collaborative program between the Little Miami History Connection (formerly Morrow Area Historical Society) and the Little Miami Local School District. The program consists of the school district’s third graders meeting weekly for 8 weeks with a project-based learning teacher to learn local history. All of the classes are taught an overview of the history of the area then work in teams to more thoroughly research a specific local history topic such as railroads, mills, and forgotten towns. The teams then creatively present what they have learned in their own Museum Exhibit on tri-fold poster boards. The program culminates with a Museum Night held at the school in which the students showcase their projects and educate their families about local history.
Shelby County Historical Society – Manufacturing Day
Shelby County’s rich industrial history goes back to the very first days of the county’s existence. The industries ranged from steel street scrapers, school furniture, foundry work, auto manufacturing, and compressors, just to name a few. Manufacturing Day was the result of one of the local elementary school principals calling the Shelby County Historical Society and requesting our Just For Kids Committee to develop a new hands on program for her school that would be tied to future employment opportunities. The event would also be tied to the school’s curriculum. The entire school, approximately 450 students, kindergarten through fifth grade, participated. Local companies sent employee volunteers to help teach the sessions along with other volunteers.
Southeast Ohio History Center – Armory Day in Athens
On May 19, the Southeast Ohio History Center and the City of Athens unveiled and dedicated an historical marker commemorating the history of the Ohio National Guard armory in Athens. The event’s speakers included a local State Representative, a State Senator, the mayor of Athens, and the director of the Southeast Ohio History Center, who addressed the importance of historic structures such as the Athens armory. Living historians portrayed members of the Ohio National Guard companies that used the building, as well as Red Cross volunteer who supported the soldiers. Following the unveiling, the Southeast Ohio History Center held a free admission day, sponsored by the Athens Historic Preservation Commission, for the public to view the exhibit Three Thousand Miles from Home: Southeast Ohioans in the First World War, and enjoy snacks from the era.
Exhibits and Displays
Anne Delano Steinert, PhD Candidate, University of Cincinnati, Finding Kenyon Barr: Exploring Photographs of Cincinnati’s Lost Lower West End
Finding Kenyon Barr: Exploring Photographs of Cincinnati’s Lost Lower West End exposed Cincinnatians to the startling history of the city’s displacement of over 25,000 African American citizens through federally funded urban renewal in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The exhibit captured this little-known episode in Cincinnati’s history through a series of evocative pre-demolition photographs taken in 1959. These 3.5 inch square images each document a specific building and include a white city worker and large sign board displaying the date of the photograph and the parcel number being photographed, the images also capture a vital street life and active urban neighborhood. The buildings’ addresses were then added to the developed images in ballpoint pen. Exhibit curator Anne Delano Steinert took these small images and enlarged them to 3 feet square. The large-format images were printed onto 3 mm PVC making the exhibit lightweight and easily mountable. The exhibit has had an important impact on the Cincinnati community’s understanding of race and neighborhoods. It has done what local history at its best is meant to do by giving the public a tool with which to make good decisions for the present and the future.
Butler County Historical Society, Over There, Over Here, Butler County in the Great War
Over There, Over Hear, Butler County in the Great War explored the impact of World War I on Butler County. The story is told through panels and artifacts that trace the entry of the United States into the Great War and follows the soldiers from the county through basic training/camp life, and the experiences they encountered in Europe. Contributions of those on the home front are also explored. Individual stories of twenty-six soldiers help the visitor learn what life was like for those who served in various capacities during the war. Their stories are told through letters they wrote home, newspaper clippings, photographs, artifacts, uniforms, and military records and include the first soldier to die from Butler County, a Catholic priest who “went over the top,” and the family who lost two sons, six weeks apart. The exhibit also explores in effect that Spanish flu had on both the soldiers and the home front. Finally, the exhibit tells the story of how the poppy became associated with WWI and how it continues to keep alive the sacrifice that was made by so many during the Great War. Also, as part of this project, two speakers bureau programs were developed and presented, one book of a WWI soldier’s diary has been published, and a second book telling the stories of the soldiers through over a thousand letters is anticipated in 2019 or 2020.
Media and Publications
Alliance Historical Society, History of Lexington Township
A project that began in 2004 finally became a finished product in 2018 with the publication of History of Lexington Township: Including Alliance, Limaville, and Mt. Union written by Levi L. Lamborn and published by the Alliance Historical Society. Society member Robb Hyde transcribed the series of 34 weekly articles from the 1873 Alliance Weekly Local that were written by Lamborn to chronicle the first seven decades of Lexington Township and the beginnings of the City of Alliance, Limaville, and Mt. Union. Prior to this project, access to these historical documents was very limited and not very useful since they existed only on microfilm and were not indexed. The transcription was edited into a logical and readable volume, illustrated with historical photographs and maps, and fully indexed, turning it into a useful reference tool and an interesting read. The book was self-published using CreateSpace and is available for purchase through Amazon. By using this publish-on-demand service, the Society did not have to purchase a large quantity of books up front and the fundraising capabilities are maximized. A Kindle version is also available, broadening the reach of the work.
Tom Jones, On A Burning Deck: The Road to Akron and The Return to Akron, An Oral History of the Great Migration
In the earliest decades of the 20th century, more than twenty-eight million men and women “black and white” began “The Great Migration” north from the Deep South and Appalachia, lured by high wages and the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families. Among the white southerners who left their homes, literally hundreds of thousands came to work in the rubber factories of Ohio during the teens and twenties, forever changing its culture, history and politics. Based on over 50 hours of previously unpublished oral histories and dozens of family photos, On A Burning Deck: The Road to Akron, offers the only complete portrait of one family’s origins in rural Kentucky, migration to Akron in 1917, and work in the rubber factories. The second volume of this work, Return to Akron, continues their story as the head of the family struggles to support a family during recession, depression and strike only to eventually take his place in local government, personally establishing a modern police department and shepherding his community’s growth in the years following World War II. Meticulously researched, rich in detail, thoroughly referenced for historical perspective, and completely indexed with hundreds of names, this contextual oral history offers the only first-hand account of industrial Ohio’s boom years. A must-read for anyone interested in 20th century history, Kentucky or Ohio history, industrial relations, local governance or genealogy, On A Burning Deck is a tale well-told with wry humor and deep insight into the people, the “hillbillies,” who built modern industrial Ohio.
Philip J. Obermiller, Visiting Professor for the School of Planning at the University of Cincinnati, and Thomas E. Wagner, Professor Emeritus of the School of Planning at the University of Cincinnati, The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission: A History 1943-2013
When Erica King-Betts became the Executive Director of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC) in 2013, she commissioned Phillip J. Obermiller and Thomas E. Wagner, established urban scholars, to research the history of an organization founded 70 years earlier as the Mayor’s Friendly Relations Committee (MFRC). The result is The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission: A History, 1943 to 2013. Obermiller and Wagner present a case study of a human relations organization, spawned by the progressive impulses of the Twentieth Century to confront racism and race relations. The authors resist the temptation to glorify their patron and paint a picture of an overly cautious, marginally effective organization that had difficulty winning confidence of the city’s leadership. Founded in the aftermath of the devastating 1943 Detroit race riot, Cincinnati Mayor James Stewart organized the Mayor’s Friendly Relations Committee, pledging similar riots “must not happen here.” MFRC was designed to be a “subtle, behind the scenes actor, an advisory body skilled in mediation” according to Obermiller and Wagner. They provide an excellent case study of a human relations organization that will serve as a touch point for future scholars examining the history of similar organizations in other communities.
Individual Achievement Awards
In 1984, The Lima News ran an article about Ray Schuck entitled “Man Should Serve, says Curator.” This philosophy describes Schuck’s spirit and attitude throughout his long career in public history, museum work, and teaching. Ray was described as one of the most beloved professors at Ohio Northern University from which he retired in May 2018. He nurtured his students with inspiration, encouragement, and true caring. But even before the many years he taught at ONU, Schuck had served twenty-five years as curator and director of the Allen County Museum in Lima, Ohio. During this profoundly busy period of his life, Ray was never too busy to help a local resident in search of historical information, or to assist museum colleagues seeking professional advice, or to accommodate elected officials in need of archaeological work to meet state or federal requirements before moving forward on some project. Highlights from his first career at the Allen County Museum include initial accreditation with the American Association of Museums and two subsequent re-accreditations. He served on the boards of OAHSM, OMA, OAS, and the Ohio Academy of History. Ray Schuck’s spirit of service is his legacy. His words and actions have impacted everyday citizens and students alike. While he spent his first career preserving and sharing history, his second career taught students how to do the same. But more importantly, it taught them why it matters.
John Swearingen, Jr.
During the nine years John Swearingen, Jr. has served as the Director of the Fulton County Historical Society, he has led the Society on a journey of growth and improvement in all aspects of our operations. He has emphasized best professional practices in the preservation of our collections, increased collaboration among our community partner institutions, and he oversaw the design, construction, installation, and operation of the new Museum of Fulton County. The Toledo Foundation provided John a small grant to help establish The Fulton County Heritage Alliance which brought together the local history organizations in the county into a collaborative working relationship. With his guidance, these groups have begun the task of creating digital records for their collections. Their records and those of the Museum of Fulton County are being incorporated into a combined list, thus allowing researchers to find items housed throughout the county. The synergy created by this collaboration is growing and has resulted in improved communication, sharing of resources, and professional growth for its members. In 2014, an opportunity to construct and create a new museum arose. John helped successfully lead a fund-raising committee which has raised over $600,000 for the creation of new exhibits and designed the exhibit hall as a timeline from prehistoric times until the 1960s. John’s attention to detail resulted in attractive displays of artifacts along with interactive and hands-on opportunities. His leadership in designing and constructing the exhibits was extraordinary. The motto of Fulton County is “I will find a way or make my own way.” John Swearingen, Jr. has helped the Society live that motto every day by his example, his vision and his leadership.
Deborah Lowe Wright
Deborah Lowe Wright, Founder and Director of the Pickaway County African American Heritage Association, decided to document black life in Circleville, Pickaway County, to make people aware of Circleville’s black history. In 2003, she invited area black residents to join her and they came together as the Pickaway County African American Heritage Association. P.C.A.A.H.A.’s first event was the dedication of an Ohio Bicentennial historic marker at the Second Baptist Church. In 2008, Ms. Wright again called on the black community to help celebrate their history. That year, the first annual Heritage Banquet honored family legacies and the 1870 political meeting at Second Baptist Church. Each year, sixty to one-hundred descendants, as far away as Florida and Texas, with community friends, attend this award winning public outreach program. Her community outreach to share this important local history has included hosting FROM HERE, a black history show broadcasted on the local cable network, writing Black History articles for the Circleville Herald, and presenting the history of the Negro’s right to vote to middle-school students. She published her first book, They Left Their Mark about Circleville and the Negro vote. In 2015 she self-published the book Historical African American Churches in Pickaway County, Ohio, 1834-1980. In addition, she has submitted articles to the Pickaway Quarterly including twelve favorite sons biographies. Ms. Wright is currently working on a new book about Circleville’s African American businessmen and landowners.