Free Access to the Siebert Collection During African American History Month

In celebration of the heroes of the Underground Railroad, Ohio Memory and the Ohio Historical Society are excited to announce that we will be providing free digital access to the internationally-acclaimed Wilbur H. Siebert Collection during this year’s Black History Month! Throughout the month of February, the public can view the over-5,000 items in the collection without the normally-required subscription, taking advantage of full-text search capabilities for all written documents, and zooming and panning of the historical materials and images.

Formal portrait of history professor Wilbur H. Siebert.

Formal portrait of history professor Wilbur H. Siebert.

The original collection has been held by the Ohio Historical Society’s Archives/Library since 1946, and is made up of items that were compiled by Wilbur H. Siebert, a former history professor at The Ohio State University from 1891 until 1935. His research material on the Underground Railroad, collected over a period of 50 years with the assistance of his students, includes survey responses, interviews and copies of notes from books, diaries, letters, photographs, newspapers, biographies, memoirs, speeches, annual reports, trial records, census records, legislation and more. A bit more history comes to us courtesy of the collection’s finding aid:

Finding that students in his American history classes were “inclined to be restless
and inattentive, [Siebert] decided to arouse their interest over a mysterious and romantic subject that was rich in adventure.” There were only four books devoted to the subject in 1891, but Siebert’s students had heard about the Underground Railroad from their parents and grandparents. The students provided names and addresses of individuals who might have first-hand knowledge of the Underground Railroad. Siebert developed a seven-question circular to generate information. During vacations, Siebert traveled Underground Railroad routes, conducted interviews, and kept extensive research notes. After his retirement, Siebert collected his research materials and bound them in volumes according to geographic location. At age 80, Siebert took an office at the Ohio State Museum, where he wrote his final book, “The Mysteries of Ohio’s Underground Railroads” (1951)

Tune into the Digital Collections News Feed for examples of unique items in this collection.

Subscriptions to the Siebert Collection provide year-round support of both the digital and physical collections, as well as improve access to the extensive collections, archives and library services of OHS. Organizations or individuals interested in access to the collection beyond the free-access period in February 2013 should contact the Ohio Historical Society for further information at Discount pricing is available for Ohio Historical Society members.

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