As a Project Curator at OHS, I work with Social Studies teachers in Ohio. My job is to find and digitize primary sources in Ohio’s archival collections that teachers can use in actual classroom instruction. Consequently, I get to discover and share wonderful treasures all the time for a living. Every once in a while, I come across something that speaks to the personal passion for history that led me here in the first place.
As a student I developed a fascination with our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Maybe it was his dedication to learning or his love of books. Certainly, it came from the power of his words.
A few years ago, as I was doing research about the United States Supreme Court, I requested many items from the archives about the Ohioans who have served on the Nation’s highest court. One of those items was simply titled: “Swayne, Noah Haynes, 1862”. Ohio’s second United States Supreme Court Justice Noah Swayne had already piqued my interest. Although he was born in Virginia, he began his legal career in my hometown of Coshocton, Ohio. Friendly archives staff retrieved and delivered my research requests. As I went through the materials, I slowly realized that what I held in my hands (not directly, for it’s protected in Mylar) was the actual Supreme Court appointment for Justice Noah H. Swayne signed by President Abraham Lincoln. I held in my hands a document that Lincoln had held in his. I can’t describe the feeling I had in that moment. I can tell you what I did. I held it up (very, very carefully) and showed it to everyone around me.
Archives provide that opportunity; so fleeting, yet so affirming, of holding a moment in history in your hands. I found Abe in the archives. What will you find?