Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lower Scioto Valley History Website Launched

Lower Scioto Valley History: Shawnee State University’s Local History Workshop is now on-line. This new website is meant to encourage the study and preservation of local history. I’d like to thank those who helped fund and support the creation of this on-line resource. First, thanks go to Jerry Holt, the former Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Jim Miller, the long-serving chair of the Social Sciences Department at Shawnee State. It was Jerry and Jim who first supported the development of a local and oral history curriculum. With their support I was able to attend the Ohio Humanities Council’s annual Oral History Institute at Kenyon College. Then with the support of two grants from the Ohio Board of Regents’ catalystOhio initiative and the ongoing support of the Department of Social Sciences I and my students were able to conduct oral history interviews and develop other primary source material for the website. Dr. Stylianos Hadjiyannis and Dr. Michael Barnhart, who also received grant money for the project, contributed their know-how in helping me design and develop the website.

The website has oral history interviews, image and map scrapbooks, an archive of primary research documents, and a list of related website links. The interviews include the latest recordings, which focus on the Norfolk and Western Railway Strike of 1978. Earlier interviews focusing on the shoe, steel, and nuclear industries are also available.

In the scrapbook section, highlights from the Harald Daub Collection are also now available. The Daub Collection consists of clippings from the personal scrapbooks of former City Councilman Harald Daub. These highlights focus on Daub’s election in 1979, the controversy surrounding a proposed downtown mall for Portsmouth, and city council’s attempt to fire City Manager Barry Feldman. More highlights covering the successful campaign to recall Daub and other councilmen will be added in the near future. Thanks are due Harald Daub for allowing the presentation of these highlights.

In addition to the scrapbook section of the website, the digital archive section includes copies of historically significant letters, manuscripts, and government documents. As with the rest of the website, new content will be added in the future. Currently, there are only a handful of documents on-line; one of which, known as the “Sears Letter,” dates back to 1981 and involves the proposed downtown mall.

The current controversy over the re-use of the old downtown Marting’s Department Store building for new city offices has marked a return to local politics for Harald Daub. His recent Ohio Election Commission complaint against the Marting’s supporters for false advertising, has generated letters to the editor of the Portsmouth Daily Times that have rehashed Daub’s roll in the Feldman/Mall Controversy of 1980. Did Daub and his supporters kill the mall project, as one recent letter writer claimed? Are they to blame?, as Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce President Michael Gampp suggested in a recent fund raising letter for their pro-Marting’s city building plan. “Our City has been paralyzed for almost thirty years by a group of individuals who wish to use threats and intimidation as tools to further their agenda and silence anyone with a different opinion.”  According to Gampp, “During this time our City has, at best, stagnated and in many ways, deteriorated.  Recalls, mudslinging and personal attacks have not helped our situation.”

The economic woes of Portsmouth since the 1970s have been the primary cause of political upheaval and in-fighting among the city’s residents. Systemic changes in the economy, nation-wide and across the globe, brought de-industrialization to the Ohio valley and Portsmouth like many other river cities has been devastated economically. Blame for the decline has become central to understanding local politics. All parties in the current controversy want what they believe is best for the town, but both sides fix the responsibility of the decline on the other. To some outside observers these divisions have come to be seen as one of the greatest hurdles to reviving the city. A struggle for control of local government and the future of the city is underway and this struggle has its origins in the Feldman/Mall Controversy of 1980.

Highlights from the Daub Collection help shed light on this area of Portsmouth history; although an incomplete record, it is hoped that other documents related to these controversies will be preserved for history’s sake. The scrapbook section of the website is open to submissions from the public. If you have letters, newspaper clippings, or other documents that you’d like to add to a scrapbook, whether on the 1980s Feldman/Mall Controversy, the current quarrel over the Marting’s building, or any other historical event in Portsmouth’s past please consider submitting it for inclusion.

These digital scrapbooks are modeled on the legendary Portsmouth scrapbooks created by Henry A. Lorberg at the turn of the 20th century. The original Lorberg Scrapbooks can be examined in the Local History Department of the Portsmouth Public Library. The new Lower Scioto Scrapbooks are meant to replicate this incredible local history resource, but do it through the latest computer technology.  During the 1890s and first decades of the twentieth century Henry Lorberg went door-to-door collecting items for his scrapbooks.  His multi-volume collection of photos, news-clippings, and other ephemera offers an amazing window into the past. Hopefully, these new digital scrapbooks will help open another window through which we all can come to a better understanding of how we got to where we are today.

With Lorberg's method in mind, the Lower Scioto Valley History website accepts submissions from the public.  Again, I encourage you, if you have an item -- photograph or other type of document of local or regional interest that captures the past or present -- please consider having it placed in one of the project scrapbooks.  To make a contribution, e-mail a digital copy of your item or send a query to me at afeight at shawnee.edu. Free scanning of documents or images is available following a consultation. When submitting an item, please include text for a caption, explaining (if possible) the who, what, where, and when about the submitted item.

Thanks for reading. Feedback on the new website is welcomed, as well.

To visit the new website click ---> Lower Scioto Valley History

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is great!

    Here is the url of the blog from the Archives of the Sandusky Library, if you would
    like to take a look: