State's Historical Society Introduces Web Site

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - History buffs can get a snapshot -- make that thousands of snapshots -- of 19th century Ohio through a Web site the Ohio Historical Society introduced Tuesday.

The Ohio Memory Online Scrapbook has more than 9,000 pages and images of Ohio's first hundred years (1803-1903) along with information about prehistoric Ohio. The Web site -- which can be accessed by clicking on the link located near the right-hand corner of this page -- features letters, photographs, paintings and other material donated by more than 250 Ohio libraries, historical societies, museums, universities and other sources.

The scrapbook was funded with $500,000 from the Ohio Public Library Information Network, a state agency that develops Internet programs for libraries. The Historical Society is trying to secure the money to bring the project through the 20th century. The state celebrates its bicentennial next year.

The scrapbook gives Ohioans an easy way to discover the state's history, said Hope Taft, Ohio's first lady, who has been involved in the project for about a year.

"We have treasures that more people in Ohio should be able to see," Taft told historians, librarians and others gathered for a Statehouse ceremony Tuesday. "No longer do you have to worry whether that library or historical society is open."

The site features a catalog of Ohio's transportation, cultural, economic and environmental history. It also features photographs, drawings and other memorabilia from cities, towns and counties.

Among the items in the online museum are a Cincinnati Reds baseball scorebook from 1894, an 1874 atlas of Cuyahoga County, photographic views of Cedar Point from 1878 to 1910, and a "bird's eye view" drawing of Delphos from 1881.

The Historical Society began planning the project five years ago, with the goal of being online by the bicentennial year, said Laurie Gemmill, the project's manager. Budget constraints forced the society to focus on the state's first hundred years, she said.

However, public interest encouraged the society to open the Web site early.

The criteria for submitting material are minimal, although the donor must own what the image shows to avoid licensing and copyright problems, Gemmill said. At the top of the list, though, is historic value, she said.

"What does this tell us about our history?" she said.

Taft urged families to take advantage of a section where site visitors can keep their own scrapbooks of favorite images.

"The more we can encourage families to leave a legacy for the future, the more they will be ... proud of their own history," she said.

Of course, the Web site has a bit of history of the family of her husband, Gov. Bob Taft. William Howard Taft didn't become president until 1909, although the Web site includes portraits of the former president's father, Alphonso Taft, and grandfather, James Rawson Taft.

"Alphonso Taft was very instrumental in the formation of the Republican Party and the formation of a lot of the nonprofit charity organizations that still have remnants in Cincinnati," Hope Taft said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)