OHIO Site offers scrapbook of history

Several local institutions have already contributed pieces to the online project.
COLUMBUS -- As the bicentennial for the Buckeye State approaches, Ohio's communities are looking for historical places, people and items to highlight.
Though it's not a new practice for historical societies, corporations and institutions to promote what they have, people from throughout the state may not always know what is in the next county, let alone in their own back yard.
The Ohio Historical Society is working to change that with its online database, the Ohio Memory Project.
Originally funded through the Ohio Public Libraries Information Network, Ohio Memory started in July 2000. The Web site -- www.ohiomemory.org -- is designed to allow libraries, historical societies, schools and others to submit records and scanned images of relevant items from Ohio's prehistory through 1903.
"There are so many materials hidden away, they are part of smaller institutions," said Laurie Gemmill, manager of Ohio Memory. "This project brings together things that people may not know exist in Ohio."
The project includes the collections of well-known museums and institutions, as well as small public libraries and historical societies, Gemmill said.
Growing collection
To date, more than 260 organizations from throughout the state have contributed items to the database, resulting in more than 14,000 items so far. That number continues to grow each quarter, Gemmill said, especially as awareness of and funding for the project grow.
The submission criteria is the same for any organization, Gemmill said.
"The first thing is historical significance," she said. "Why is this important? Why do we care?
"Another criterion is if the items are complementary," Gemmill continued. "We don't want the site to be representative of only northern Ohio, or only of industry or farming. We want the whole state and all subject areas represented."
On the Web site, visitors can browse for items a number of ways, she said. There are currently 20 different subject areas -- from famous places or people to Ohio government to industry and more -- that items are divided into. Searches can also be done by geographic location or by contributing institutions.
Local contributors
Several local organizations participate in the project, including the McKinley Memorial Library in Niles, the Salem Historical Society, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, the Kinsman Free Public Library, and the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor.
Andrew Davis, assistant administrator at the Kinsman Free Public Library, said the library plans to put much of its local history collection on the site.
Davis said he sees the database as a great way for anyone interested in finding out about Ohio to get as much information as possible with little effort.
"We plan on contributing our items on Clarence Darrow," he said, referring to the famed trial attorney and one of Kinsman's most notable residents. "Through Ohio Memory, you would be able to search the database for Clarence Darrow, and find not only materials we have, but anything anyone else in the state may have, too. And it's all right there in one place for you."
Gemmill said although much of the information on people such as Darrow cannot currently be included -- a criterion for inclusion is that items must predate 1903 -- that could soon change.
Planning expansion
The Ohio Historical Society is now working on obtaining additional funding that would allow Ohio Memory to expand its database, and include more-recent items. Those working on the project could start those expansions as early as October, she said.
That could mean more submissions from places such as the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, said archivist Fred Previtz.
To date, the museum has nine items included in the database but plans to contribute more in the coming months.
"We try to pick items that are unique, things not similar to other institutions' contributions," he said.
Previtz said another plus is that Ohio Memory allows people from outside the Mahoning Valley to learn about the museum and what it highlights.
"That is definitely one of the reasons we participate," he said.

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