2023 Outstanding Achievement Awards

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 2023 Annual Meeting, OLHA presented 9 Outstanding Achievement Awards to a selection of organizations and individuals that have inspired, connected, and educated their audiences in Ohio.

Learn more about the winners and their projects from the descriptions below, and consider submitting your Outstanding Achievements for the awards in 2024!


  • Mary Louise Platko, Perry Historical Society – “During her 65 years in Perry, Ohio, Mary Louise Platko shared and celebrated the community’s history.  Mary co-founded the Perry Historical Society and served in many positions there, including president, vice-president, secretary, curator, historian, school tour guide, and trustee. She researched sources and interviewed citizens of Perry for the eighty some articles she wrote under the banner “A Little Bit of Perry History”. These articles were later edited into a book with the same title, published posthumously in 2021. Mary Louise’s legacy continues as she has given identity to Perry’s past and those who have gone before in the Perry community. Her work has instilled life into houses, streets, her church, and the historic people of Perry, Ohio. Her co-founding of the Perry Historical Society and museum are a gift to past, present, and future generations of Perry citizens.”
  • David M. Cox – “David Cox, a retired podiatrist, receives an Individual Award for his second life’s work as a local historian in Darke County. David’s research serves as the heart of the Crossroads of Destiny exhibit at the Garst Museum, which explores the Treaty of Greene Ville in 1795, which ended forty years of conflict with native peoples over the upper Ohio Valley and opened the door to the settlement of the Midwest by white pioneers. A misplaced map drawn by the son of Anthony Wayne, and rediscovered by David during his research, served as a center point for the exhibit. David also established the Friends of Fort Jefferson and lead the efforts to study and preserve the history of this important 18th century military outpost. The Darke County Historical Society appreciates David Cox’s passion for local history and contributions to the study of Ohio’s history.”
  • Lindsay McLean, The Indian Hill Historical Society – “During her 30 years as a members of the Indian Hill Historical Society, Lindsay Maclean has made significant contributions to the organization’s archival and educational efforts. Lindsay has researched and written ten articles per year, for the last 27 years, for the official publication of the Village of Indian Hills.  Her articles focus on the local history stories she discover within the society’s archives.  Additionally, she regularly provides articles for the historical society’s publications. Lindsay has conducted over 200 oral history interviews that provide insights into the village’s history and have been recorded, transcribed and indexed.  And since 1994, she has organized and directed the museum’s award-winning One Room School House Experience, which has been given to several thousand local 4th grade students.”
  • Leslie Blankenship – “Leslie Blankenship has made innumerable significant contributions to the understanding of Ohio’s history.  Over decades, she has shared the stories of many people previously left to the periphery of Ohio’s story, including those of African-Americans and women. She co-founded the Friends of Freedom Society in 1996, an organization that raises public awareness about the lives of enslaved African Americans related to the Underground Railroad movement.  Meticulous research enables Blankenship to portray numerous Ohio women from history in first-person presentations, bringing forward lesser-known stories. Leslie has been a dedicated volunteer with several history organizations, including the Franklinton Historical Society and the Kelton House Museum & Garden, both of which she’s been involved in since the 1990s. She has presented programs and done first-person interpretations at many historical societies around the state. Leslie impacts countless local historians through her work as a Board Member at the Ohio Local History Alliance.  She connects historians, groups, and organizations to help them further their great work through collaborative partnerships.  She freely shares her knowledge and experiences, and is constantly working to support her colleagues and encourage participation.  She also writes articles for the Local Historian newsletter and proposes speakers and presenters for the regional and annual meetings. Her work benefits not only our OLHA members, but also people across the state who are engaging with local history.”


Media and Publications

  • Westerville History Museum at the Westerville Public Library – “So You Think You Know Westerville?” – “Westerville History Museum staff created a 24-episode video series about the history of Westerville, Ohio, which has garnered over 52,000 views (and counting). “So You Think You Know Westerville? has inspired conversations about landmarks, trailblazing residents and hidden history. Viewers can learn the story of the Ohio Home for Aged & Infirm Deaf and of Minerva France, who helped set a precedent for Black women in librarianship and higher education. In another episode, the museum staff shared the research process in real-time, while searching for an indigenous people’s mound that appeared, and then disappeared, from area maps. The series connects viewers with the rich history of the community and provides a deeper level of understanding of that history’s impact on present day life in Westerville.”

Public Programming

  • Delhi Historical Society – “A Night with Cincinnati Chili Royalty” – “Many of us have sampled Cincinnati’s distinctive chili, but thanks to the Delhi Historical Society, many more now know its fascinating history. Introduced in 1922 by the Kiradjieff family at their Empress chili parlor, Cincinnati-style chili has become the comfort food of the region. The Kiradjieffs trained Nick Lambrinides who founded Skyline Chili in 1949. The Daouds opened Gold Star Chili in 1963 after learning the trade from another Kiradjieff employee. Numerous other chili parlors abound in Greater Cincinnati: each with its own recipe based on the original, with their own special taste and twists. For the 100th anniversary of Cincinnati chili, the Delhi Historical Society hosted a “A Night with Cincinnati Chili Royalty.” Representatives of the three main chili families participated in a lively, informal panel discussion and shared family photos during this once-in-a-lifetime event. More than 350 people from across the Greater Cincinnati area attended the program, which was a celebration of successful immigrant families, local culture, and civic pride.”


  • Delphos Canal Commission – “Leslie Peltier: World’s Great Non-Professional Astronomer” – “The Delphos Canal Commission created a wonderful exhibit on Leslie Peltier, who was dubbed “the world’s greatest non-professional astronomer.” During his 65-year career, Peltier discovered 12 comets and two novae and made 132,000 variable star observations.The new exhibit centers on a replica of Peltier’s homemade Merry Go Round Observatory, so called because he used a children’s merry go round as the base, enabling the observer to rotate as they  followed the stars.  Peltier scavenged much of the rest of the materials from his father’s farm and local junkyards. The Merry Go Round Observatory was the first of its kind and drew astronomers from across the country to view it. The exhibit also includes photographs, artifacts and a video on Peltier’s life and achievements.”
  • Shelby County Historical Society – “The Wallace Family Learning and Innovation Center” – “When Rich Wallace first moved to Sidney, he remembers walking past an old, dilapidated building in downtown Sidney.  Soon, he learned more about the building and its grand past as Ohio’s first and most important Civil War Memorial Hall.  Inspired by this discovery and all that he learned about the history of the community, Wallace encouraged and supported the creation of a learning & innovation center at the Shelby County Historical Society. The mission of the Wallace Family Learning and Innovation Center is to celebrate the visionary leaders of Shelby County’s past, in order to foster pride in the community and inspire the great minds of the future. Its interactive galleries are leadership focused and feature the men and women whose passion and ingenuity guided the development of Shelby County.”
  • Delaware County Historical Society – “Journey to Delaware County” – “Encompassing culture and education, the exhibit includes photographs, artifacts used by early homesteaders, exhibit panels and QR codes, which help create an interactive experience for visitors. The displays explain how and why pioneers traveled west to Delaware County in the early 1800s. Visitors can read first person accounts of these early pioneers, explore a replica covered wagon, learn about the founding of the 18 townships in Delaware County, and see a list of the earliest settlers. Delaware County residents are encouraged to add their ancestors to that list as well. School children especially enjoy the opportunity to shop at the local mercantile for the supplies needed to complete the long journey. They learn at the end of their visit if they have selected the best items to ensure a safe and successful journey.”

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