Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Veterans Memorial Bridge tour this Saturday

Robert Klaiber, the Cuyahoga County Engineer, is hosting another of his popular open house tours of the lower level of the Veterans Memorial Bridge (Detroit-Superior Bridge) this coming Saturday, September 2nd, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more details, call (216) 348-3824, or visit their website.

Peace returns to the Cultural Gardens

Cleveland's beautiful Cultural Gardens in Rockefeller Park had fallen on hard times in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, as people stole statues for scrap, dug up plantings and trashed these famous landscapes, created earlier in the century to commemorate the many ethnic groups who composed greater Cleveland. Today the Gardens are witnessing a revival. (Robert L. Smith. "Cultural Gardens reviving." Plain Dealer. Tuesday, August 29, 2006. Page B-1). For more on the Gardens, see the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Collection in Cleveland Memory, which includes an e-book edition of Clara Lederer's Their paths are peace.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Back to the old salt mine

Cargill Deicing Technology Company gave over 125 people a chance to visit their salt mine, 1,765 feet below Whiskey Island. (John Horton. "Salt mine visitors find that it's a pretty cool place." Plain Dealer. Sunday, August 27, 2006. Page B-1)

Tragedy mars Detroit-Shoreway progress

The recent murders of two respected artists in their Detroit-Shoreway condominium building has temporarily overshadowed the substantial progress this neighborhood has made in transforming it into a desirable place to live and work. This PD article reports on the extent of that progress. (Mark Rollenhagen. "Detroit-Shoreway pauses in its climb." Plain Dealer. Sunday, August 27, 2006. Page B-1)

Friday, August 25, 2006

What to do with the Breuer Tower?

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners have received suggestions from the architectural teams vying to tackle the old Cleveland Trust Bank's high-rise office building, built by Marcel Breuer. Some suggest renovation, some demolition, and the commissioners will have to decide soon. (Tom Breckenridge. "Raze it or reuse it: County hears yet another option for office tower." Plain Dealer. Friday, August 25, 2006. Page B-6). earlier blog on this subject

P.S. We've added some photos of the tower from the Cleveland Press Collection to our Cleveland Memory Project, here.

Cleveland Archival Roundtable to tour ICA

Press release:

Cleveland Archival Roundtable Meeting
Tuesday September 19, 2006
6:00 - 7:30 pm
Intermuseum Conservation Association
2915 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland 44113

Please join us at the Intermuseum Conservation Association for the inaugural meeting of CAR's 2006-2007 season on Tuesday September 19.

Founded in 1952, the ICA was the first regional conservation laboratory in the United States, providing services to museums, libraries, archives, and other collecting institutions. Its early success attracted national attention and resulted in NEA start-up funding for a network of regional conservation centers based on the ICA model. Originally located in Oberlin, the ICA is now located on Detroit Avenue in the former Vitrolite glass company building. The entrance to the building is on Church Street. ICA staff recommend parking on Church Street or West 29th Street.

Following a tour by one of ICA's senior conservators we will have a brief business meeting. Judy Cetina, Vice President of the Academy of Certified Archivists and Cuyahoga County Archivist, will provide information and answer your questions about archival certification.

Please RSVP to Leslie Cade at 216-707-2492 or lcade@clevelandart.org.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Modern bridges in Canal Corridor

Departing somewhat from my usual coverage of things historic, I wanted to point out a interesting column by Stephen Litt, about two new pedestrian bridges being planned by Cleveland Metroparks for the Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor. Litt deemed them "lithe and elegant." (Stephen Litt. "Bridging a Canalway gap in Valley View." Plain Dealer. Sunday, August 20, 2006. Page J-1)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cedar Fairmount Festival this Sunday

The Cedar Fairmount Festival will be this Sunday, August 20th, from noon to 5:00 p.m., reports the Future Heights News e-newsletter.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Exhibition opening in Hudson

Press release

The Valley Windows Association, a consortium of area historical societies, will host the former director of the Connecticut Antiquarian & Landmarks Society, Bill Hosley on Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 1 p.m. at The Hudson Library & Historical Society.

Hosley, a content specialist for PBS and BBC film documentaries and organizer of several major exhibits such as Sense of Place” Furniture from New England Towns (1993) and The Great River: Art & Society of the Connecticut Valley (1985) is currently on the steering committee for Coltsville National Park in Hartford Connecticut. Mr. Hosley will speak and inaugurate the installation of the Valley Windows Association’s newest exhibit, Connecticut to Cuyahoga -- the 19th century Migration of Culture. Hosley will address the common threads of everyday life in 19th Connecticut and Ohio and speak on the 250 years of a regional relationship between Ohio and Connecticut Valley. Aspects of cultural history are explored through the study of gravestones, architecture, household furnishing and regional industries.

This program is free and registration is not required. For more information, please contact the Archives Department at 330-653-6658, ext. 1017.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fenn Tower renovated and rededicated

Historic Fenn Tower, built as the National Town & Country Club in 1930 and once the home of the YMCA's Fenn College, has received a major renovation for use as a dorm for Cleveland State students. The Tower was recently rumored to be slated for demolition, but an outcry from alumni gave it this life as a residential building once again (it seems many universities try to tear down their original building, only to be forced to do a 180 like this). (Jennifer Gonzalez. "Making CSU a little more like home." Plain Dealer. Monday, August 14, 2006. Page B-3. Sidebar: Rachel Dissell. "Making old new at CSU." Sidebar: "Fenn (then) and now". Editorial: Tuesday, August 15, 2006. "Making a campus of CSU.")


A press release (below) reports that the OCLC library group has purchased DiMeMa, the software vendor for the CONTENTdm image database used by the Cleveland Memory Project and several other libraries (Cleveland Public Library, for example). This little bit of techie trivia warrants mention here only because it signifies a strengthening of OCLC's position as a key player in the distribution of digital history products in Ohio, rivaling OhioLINK. Since OCLC now offers the OpenWorldCat means of accessing library records and is hosting a new CONTENTdm user group for Ohio, users will likely soon find the on-line history products they want through OCLC more than any other means.

Press release:
We are pleased to forward the appended press release announcing the acquisition of DiMeMa by OCLC. We are excited about this opportunity to better serve our user community with expanded resources and additional integration with OCLC services. As you know, our user community is vitally important to the CONTENTdm team in Seattle. Our primary objective continues to be supporting you as you develop your digital collections and you will find the same dedicated staff working with you. We will continue to provide regular product enhancements and the same high level of support to which you are accustomed. We look forward to an exciting future and thank you for your continued use of CONTENTdm! Claire Cocco, Product Manager

Saturday, August 12, 2006

SOA workshop on DACS

A press release

The Society of Ohio Archivists is sponsoring a professional workshop on Monday, September 18th from 9:30am to 3:30pm at the Hudson Library & Historical Society. Dr. Karen Gracy of the University of Pittsburgh will be exploring and introducing all to the new archival description tool known as DACS. This is designed for both the beginner and those somewhat familiar with DACS. For further information and registration please see www.ohioarchivists.org/workshop/

Gwendolyn Mayer
Acting Archivist
Hudson Library & Historical Society

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A good time at the Fair

The past three days have belonged to the Cuyahoga County Fair and our exhibit, "Memories of Cleveland." The library staff has been manning the exhibit in shifts since Monday afternoon and it's been a marvelous and instructive experience for us all.

We've set up in a third of the Home & Hobby Building, where we've installed 100 poster-size enlargements of some of our favorite pictures of Cleveland landmarks, events and people from years past. We have the Terminal Tower being built, the Cuyahoga River on fire, the Sterling Lindner Christmas Tree, Dorothy Fuldheim interviewing Bob Hope, the 1948 Indians winning the series, the 1964 Browns winning the championship game, Jesse Owens winning gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, Sam Sheppard and Eliot Ness, Big Chuck and Little John, Ghoulardi, Barnaby, Captain Penny and a host of other visual memories from the past of most middle-aged Clevelanders. The Cleveland Memory home page will be featuring shots from the fair all week, so go and see both the images themselves and the exhibit being constructed and enjoyed.

We expect 100,000 people to go through the fair and based on what we've seen so far, we're getting a very good percentage of everyone who's attended so far. The daytime crowds are streaming through the exhibit, 30 or 40 at a time and the evenings drop off only a little bit, right up to closing. Something like the announced start of the Demolition Derby or the fireworks display will momentarily empty the exhibit, but within a half hour it's right back up to normal. The people drift through the site, pausing for many minutes at each section of photos and often launch into explanations to their spouse, children or friends about one photo or another that has caught their eye. We've taken to hovering near such people, to ask if we may record what they have to say, and will be mounting their interviews to Cleveland Memory and/or the MemoryArchive.

There has also been a crew of graduate students from the CSU History Department working the crowds in the late afternoons, finding interesting folks to interview more extensively in a back room. And, after a slow start, our memory book is attracting many positive comments and favorite recollections from people, as well.

If there's been a common denominator to the memories people seem to have, they are 1) the downtown shopping experience, especially at Christmas time, 2) the city's sports teams and 3) the television celebrities. It makes us wonder what the children and teenagers in the crowd will have as memories of Cleveland, 40 years from now. There isn't the local programming like we saw in the '50s and '60s, so with the exceptions of people like Big Chuck and Dick Goddard, who themselves are legacies from that period, there aren't many distinctive individuals left to develop followings like Ghoulardi or Mr. Jingeling had.

Another benefit of this exhibit, besides introducing people to our holding and the Cleveland Memory Project and hearing about their memories, is the way that this exhibit has involved the library's staff in the Cleveland Memory Project. Much of the work on the CMP is done in a couple of library departments, but the staffing of this exhibit has cut across all departments and given everyone, from the director on down, the chance to be directly involved in the project and see how enjoyable and worthwhile our local history services are.

Memories are just one aspect of local history work and the range of information in Special Collections and the Cleveland Memory Project range from such casual recollections of the past to serious, scholarly research projects, but being in contact with people enjoying themselves like this reminds us all of how important a sense of place and a shared heritage is for the community. This exhibit has helped us emphasize the "Cleveland" in "Cleveland State" and we're very thankful that the Fair Board and National City have given us this opportunity to interact with the thousands of fair-goers. I think everyone's come out ahead.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A new approach to local history, part three: the Wikipedia and MemoryArchive

The Atlantic magazine (formerly The Atlantic Monthly) has an interesting article this month ("The Hive") about the Wikipedia, an on-line encyclopedia that is built and maintained by a community of users that has great promise and challenges for the future of historical research. Begun in 2001, the Wikipedia is now ten times the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica, measured in numbers of entries, and is, according to one disputed study, only marginally less accurate than that esteemed traditional publication. The idea of the Wikipedia is to let anyone make new entries or changes to existing ones, thus potentially involving the specialized expertise and substantial volunteer hours of the general public. It also opens the project up to amateur errors and malicious tampering as well, a possibility that concerns outsiders more than Wikipedia’s army of active participants, who feel quite competent to ferret out these errors and mischief-makings and keep the product accurate.

This is another example of how the web has undergone a transformational change from something that is only a series of proprietary, view-only sites to the new “Web2.0” category of sites – such as Flickr, del.icio.us, and blogging – that are interactive, bottom-up approaches to sharing information and building communities that couldn’t be handled the old way. Throughout the various disciplines of information and scholarship we are seeing an opening up of new channels and the empowerment of millions of new voices that formerly would have lacked the means to participate fully in how information is created, shared and used.

In terms of local history, the Web2.0 phenomenon presents new ways for everyone to become published on some level and to include their thoughts, opinions, expertise and memories in the central marketplace of ideas. The author of the Atlantic piece, Marshall Poe, is heading up a related project called the MemoryArchive (formerly the MemoryWiki), where individuals can directly enter their memories and stories and read those of other contributors. We at Cleveland State are partnering with Marshall and the MemoryArchive in next week’s Cuyahoga County Fair (see below), encouraging fair-goers to visit the MemoryArchive site to record their memories in writing, or give them verbally to us at the fair, where we will record them and pass them along to Marshal for inclusion as MP3 audio memories. The Library of Congress has jumped into the memory-gathering field, with their StoryCorp project, as well.

Returning to the Wikipedia, I see this as part of the recent trend towards moving academic history closer to the subjects and users of historical information. Starting in the Sixties, when the new crop of Baby Boomers started graduating with masters degrees and doctorates in history, they brought with them that era’s emphasis on the worth of the working class and others who had formerly not had their voices heard by traditional academic history. Their new emphasis on Social History sought to document the lives of the common people through analysis of new sources of information (see the CSU History Department’s studies of coroner’s inquest records in the Case of Rosa O’Malia) and, more recently, in the wholesale recording of oral histories (see the 1980’s Ethnic Women of Cleveland series and the recent interviews being done for the RTA project and reported in the Plain Dealer). That in including the voices of the people being championed by the socially-aware Sixties such an approach was also opening new career possibilities for young academicians was doubly beneficial (the emphasis on public history as a field of study also has opened up new vistas for academic study and for post-graduation jobs in documentary film production, historic properties docent work, writing popular histories, working in museums, libraries and archives and other career possibilities to soak up the supply of students coming out of university history programs).

Somewhere down the decades, the message that the common citizens have something valuable to contribute to an understanding of history has begun to sink into the consciousnesses of that class and they are emboldened to try their hands at writing history directly. The best example of this is the plethora of new local history works being written by amateur historians and published by Arcadia Publishing. But the web offers even faster and cheaper paths to publication and the Wikipedia is foremost in offering opportunities for national exposure for local historians and subject specialists in narrow fields that might not even find publication through Arcadia.

Many traditional historians find this trend towards grass-roots publishing worrisome and often for good reason. Sometimes rapid change upsets the controls and authentication that insures the reliability of expert information and things like the Wikipedia can make it seem like any crank can put themselves alongside a PhD with 30 years of careful research in a subject. But like it or not, the Web2.0 phenomenon is rolling along and spreading into all manner of new nooks and crannies of intellectual life. Where this impacts history, a category I whimsically call History2.0, it is stirring things up for scholars and teachers alike. One response has been for more traditional on-line websites –- if anything in the 10-year-old Web can be called “traditional” -– to experiment with opening up somewhat and make some provision for users to share opinions and information with necessarily touching the core information that the site has offered. Whether this will prove to be an adequate response or merely a transitional measure towards fully and equal community participation is yet to be seen, but the Wikipedia is making a strong case for empowering users.

For previous musings about History2.0 see:

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Oglebay Norton gets out of shipping business

In a long article, the Plain Dealer reported the sale of Oglebay Norton's last three ore boats, marking the end of the company's historic role as an ore shipper on the Great Lakes. The article goes into that history and ends with the wistful observation that two of these last boats to go were the Earl W. Oglebay and the David Z. Norton, namesakes of the founders. (Alison Grant. "The end of an era." Plain Dealer. Sunday, August 6, 2006. Page G-1) That's my photo, which I shot one day as I was touring the Cuyahoga Valley's historic bridges.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Eminent domain, "blight" and historic properties

The Greater Ohio web site reports that the Ohio Legislature's Eminent Domain Task Force has issued its recommendations on how the State of Ohio should approach the taking of public property for public or private development by state and local governments. The recommendations of the report include:

  • Affirming the right of local governments to use eminent domain to seize blighted property, even if the property is eventually transferred to a private party
  • Prohibiting government eminent domain takings solely for the purpose of generating added tax revenue or declaring blight solely on the basis that additional revenue could be generated
  • A constitutional amendment establishing a definition of blight for use by all local governments
  • Requiring that at least 50% of the property must be blighted for eminent domain to be used
  • Keeping the property in the hands of the owner until all appeals are exhausted, except in cases of "quick-takes," a special category that allows the state to seize land for roads and other emergencies
  • Compensating the property owner for loss of business, moving expenses and attorney's fees if not fairly compensated

One key concept in all this is the definition of "blighted areas" and "blighted parcels," which are contained in pages 29 through 33 of the final report. Here it appears that such considerations as "Age and obsolescence," "non-compliance with codes," or "inadequate street layouts" could be used to declare a parcel or neighborhood blighted. The language is very vague and could be applied to historic homes and districts, where age, obsolescence and out-moded layouts are commonly found.

The lack of attention to historic preservation could stem from the fact that the rooster of committee members does not appear to include any historians or historic preservation. I'm wondering where the Ohio Historical Society was in this process.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Getting close to showtime at the Cuyahoga County Fair

As I reported here on July 18th, CSU’s Cleveland Memory Project will be the centerpiece of the Cuyahoga County Fair, August 7th thru 13th. Here in the final week of preparation, we’re madly trying to solve problems, evaluate last-minute ideas and prepare the exhibit and other elements of the fair. Fortunately for us, public relations director Mike Rogers can accomplish almost anything at the last minute, FastSigns/Downtown’s Bernie and his crew are willing to work wonders creating the display posters and creative director Ron Newell is calmly (despite our frenzy) and competently translating the pile of material we deposited in front of him into one of those sterling displays he’s spent his life creating. The workhorse in all this has been Joanne Cornelius, the supervisor in the CSU Library’s Digital Production Unit, who’s kept all the balls in the air, no matter how many I’ve whimsically tossed her way. This is an amazing team and we are confident that the “Memories of Cleveland” display that results will be a credit to Dave Stephan and the Fair staff and to our financial backer, National City Bank.

The exhibit will be enhanced by several means of gathering memories from some of the 100,000 fair-goers who we anticipate visiting us next week. First, our library volunteers will be armed with small MP3 digital voice recorders, to record whatever stories are unlocked by visitors viewing the exhibit photos. We anticipate mounting some of these to the web, perhaps as podcasts for download from our new Fair Site. Second, the CSU History Department is conducting a series of sit-down oral history interviews with people with more involved and interesting stories. Third, all fair-goers will be invited to sign our Memories Book. Fourth, they will also be able to go home and enter stories into the MemoryArchive project on-line.

One other aspect of the “Memories of Cleveland” project is a digital photo contest currently underway on the Flickr photo sharing website. Perhaps the most ambitious and experimental way we’re trying to reach out technologically and involve other people, this contest is soliciting photos of Cleveland and the Fair from Flickr subscribers old and new. We have had some trouble designing this contest and launching it, so your chances of winning the digital camera grand prize are pretty decent.

We certainly invite you to come out to the fair next week and see all our timeless photos of Cleveland's past. Stop and say hello and perhaps share some memories.

CSU acquires Louis C. Rosenberg drawings

Thanks to a generous grant from the North American Railway Foundation, the Cleveland State University Library's Special Collections has acquired a complete set of Cleveland Union Terminal drawings, originally commissioned by the Van Sweringen brothers from Louis C. Rosenberg. Someday soon the current Rosenberg site will be updated with images of all 22 drawings. My sincere thanks to Executive Director Phil Sullivan and the members of the NARF board for their continued support!

New Shaker Heights book announced

From the publisher

Acadia Publishing has announced the release of a new title, Shaker Heights, Ohio, by Bruce T. Marshall, in their extensive "Images of America" series of paperback books. There are 200 photos in this 128-page book, which retails for $19.95.