Exploring Our Shared History
By Emily Haddaway, Digital Librarian, Ohio Wesleyan University
On October 30, 2009, Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) and the Delaware County Historical Society (DCHS) will complete their first collaborative digital collection. Funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant awarded by the State Library of Ohio, Our Shared History: Delaware, Methodism, and Ohio Wesleyan University uses images and text to explore how the city, the church, and the university grew and changed together.
The initial idea for the project arose from the type of research requests being received by both institutions. Questions sent to OWU often involved the study of materials from all three of the university’s Special Collections areas—the Archives of Ohio United Methodism, the Ohio Wesleyan University Historical Collection, and Rare Books and Artifacts. In addition, each institution found itself making referrals to the other in order to best answer researchers’ questions. Seeing an opportunity to build an online collection that would provide researchers with background information about and access to select materials, Archivist Carol Holliger and grant writer Clint Baugess contacted DCHS to pitch the idea of collaborating on an LSTA grant. Enthusiastic about the chance to showcase rare and rarely seen resources, the staff of the historical society agreed to the partnership.
After being notified that the grant was selected in fall 2008, OWU and DCHS quickly began work on a list of target topics to guide materials selection. Grant funds were used to purchase an Indus 5002 color book scanner, which allowed for the scanning of delicate materials that could not have been reproduced using a traditional flatbed. Weekly visits to DCHS by OWU staff kept the lines of communication open, and quarterly meetings held in OWU’s Special Collections Department encouraged discussions regarding image and metadata creation.
The resulting digital collection, hosted by OhioLINK as part of the statewide Digital Resource Commons, includes 1200 items that “tell the story” of the founding of the city of Delaware, the history of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the establishment of Ohio Wesleyan University. The list of subscribers to Ohio Wesleyan University, a featured item in the Our Shared History collection, provides an excellent example of how these three histories are connected.
When the Mansion House, a hotel built adjacent to Delaware’s Sulphur Spring, was no longer financially viable as a resort destination, owner and local judge Thomas W. Powell placed it up for sale. Pastor Adam Poe of William Street Methodist Episcopal Church believed the property was an ideal site for a Methodist college in Ohio. In 1841, Poe gathered signatures from local Delaware citizens who were willing to help purchase the Mansion House and offer it to the Ohio and North Ohio Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This document of names and pledges makes up the list of subscribers. Ultimately, the Mansion House was purchased using these funds and went on to become Elliott Hall, OWU’s first building.
Once the collection is complete, OWU and DCHS will work together again to publicize the collection and expand outreach in the city of Delaware. For more information about this and Ohio Wesleyan’s other digital collections, please contact Emily Haddaway at firstname.lastname@example.org.