OHS Collections Roadshow

Collections staff are packing up their cameras, computers and white gloves. Columbus based employees will get to visit historical sites, examine objects and meet their colleagues across the state, from Perrysburg near Toledo to Marietta on the Ohio River. From April through October they will be completing thorough inventories of collections that are displayed or stored at 16 Ohio Historical Society sites. Staff will process over 10,000 objects stored at sites in an unprecedented effort to provide site staff with accurate and complete inventories of collections in their care. Over 24 staff will participate in the inventory project, along with dozens of volunteers and student interns. Teams are documenting collections as diverse as Florence Harding’s piano and Zane Grey’s fishing hat. They will visit sites Monday through Wednesday in order to cause the least disruption during heavy visitation days.

Regular inspection of objects on display or in storage is an integral part of professionally managing museum collections. While site inventories have always been part of our responsibility, we are intensifying our efforts as the Society enters into management agreements with local organizations. Under the terms of the management agreements local organizations are responsible for day to day management and staffing of the sites. The Society will continue to care for the historical objects kept there. “We are, in effect, creating a ‘museum without walls,” says Sharon Dean, Director of Collections Services at OHS. “We need to think of the ‘real stuff’ of history being located statewide, not just in Columbus.”

Completing the site inventories is a top priority for the Collections Division. “This effort requires interdivisional cooperation,” according to Sharon Dean, Director of Collections Services. Staff in collections will work closely with colleagues in the Sites, Outreach and Historic Preservation and Education and Interpretation divisions. Within the division, staff who specialize in caring for museum objects will be joined in the field by their colleagues from the State Archives, Preservation and Access, and Research Services departments. Dr. Dean further explains, “Having staff from multiple disciplines complete these inventories will increase our knowledge of collections and will create better relations with our site partners.”

As part of the inventory process teams will take high resolution digital photographs of all collection objects. Most items will be photographed from multiple angles to document their appearance and condition. Digital images will eventually be uploaded to our website. “They will compliment written descriptions of the objects and simplify object identification,” states Angela O’Neal, manager of the Preservation and Access Services department. “We will also be able to reproduce these photographs for exhibits and publications or to put them online in our digital library.”

Assistant registrar taking photographs of items on display in the visitor center at Fort Meigs.

Assistant registrar taking photographs of items on display in the visitor center at Fort Meigs.

Site inventories will give the Collections staff a great opportunity to improve object descriptions and to build our online catalog for public use. Who knows? We may even rediscover some great historical treasures in our collections. To follow the progress of the site inventory project please continue to visit our Collections blog. Staff will be logging on to share their experiences as they travel the state and give a behind the scenes perspective of museum work.

Two staff members cataloging objects in the visitor center at Fort Meigs.

Two staff members cataloging objects in the visitor center at Fort Meigs.

Sites to be inventoried are:
Fort Meigs, a reconstructed fort from the War of 1812 in Perrysburg
Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta
Piqua Historical Area, which includes the home of John Johnston
Adena Mansion and Gardens, the home of Thomas Worthington in Chillicothe
Fort Ancient, prehistoric earthworks in Oregonia
Fort Hill, a nature preserve in Hillsboro
Serpent Mound, a world famous effigy mound in Adams County
Flint Ridge, the site of prehistoric flint quarries
President Warren G. Harding home in Marion
Newark Earthworks
Wahkeena Preserve in Sugar Grove
National Road/Zane Grey Museum in Norwich
Campus Martius in Marietta
Zoar Village in Tuscarawas County
Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool
Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor

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