Oberlin Heritage Center Blog


Archive for the ‘Student Projects!’ Category

Winter Term 2012: Finding Community Through History

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Until my time spent at the Heritage Center, my interest in museum work and cultural heritage management was underwritten by my fascination with the objects involved—Classical archaeology was only as interesting as its statuary and American history was only as interesting as the objects which told its stories. My concept and appreciation of museum work gained another crucial dimension during my month with the Heritage Center: the importance of community. In many ways the Oberlin Heritage Center is a professional institution, but in seemingly as many other ways it is a community club of sorts, relying heavily not only on the monetary support of its members but also their expertise and experience.

Towards the end of January, Prue Richard, the Collections Assistant, invited me to attend a collections committee meeting, which would be held at—to my surprise—Kendal (a local retirement community). On the way to the meeting I remember asking Prue if these meetings were public or private, if the committee was composed of board members or paying members, and who would be attending. The answers to these questions were not at all what I had expected. The committee was composed of an incredible diversity of volunteer talents, each of which was hugely valuable to the Heritage Center. The use of community talent and expertise seems essential to the continued prosperity of the Center.

I also enjoyed and learned quite a bit in my more day-to-day tasks at the Center. Interested in both research and collections management, I was able to spread my time somewhat evenly between these two interests. In terms of research, I was given the task of updating biographies on the previous tenants of Monroe house to go with the new furnishings plan. I focused primarily on the Monroe Children—Emma, Mary, Charles, and William. As far as collections management goes, I was able to help Prue develop a new salvage plan which would be used to evacuate the most important objects in the event of a fire or other major crisis. In performing these two tasks I became very familiar with the museum database program Past Perfect as well as a number of genealogical research databases. I also spent a good deal of time in the College archives poring over old financial and legal documents.

The tasks I was given by the Heritage Center staff were undoubtedly personally valuable—and hopefully valuable to the Center as well; but, the aspect of my time here that I may have enjoyed most was being my friends’ personal Oberlin historian. Dozens of times other Oberlin students would approach me with questions about the age of their home or the previous tenants, and given my access to all the information stored at the Heritage Center, I was more than capable of answering these questions. From finding the building history of my house on East College to finding that my friend’s apartment was previously a Masonic Temple, these small bits of historical knowledge have really brought Oberlin to life for me—breaking out the four year cycles I tend to see Oberlin as being stuck in, and revealing a community with a rich, important history that needs to be told and remembered.

Greg Brown
OC Class of 2012

Young Scholars Defend Research

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

By Donna Marie Shurr, Teacher Oberlin High School

For the eleventh year, Langston Middle School and Oberlin High School students have represented Oberlin at District 3 National History Day.  On Saturday, March 19, students traveled to Case Western Reserve University to present their work before panels of judges. The 2011 contest included 400 students.  This record number of entries made for a very exciting day.  Students prepared original exhibits, historical papers, creative performances, media documentaries and imaginative web sites.

Representing Oberlin High School for her fifth and final year, senior Katherine Cavanaugh presented her original, individual performance entitled “ Roe vs. Wade: The Life Saving Debate .”  One of Cavanaugh’s judges commented, “Your final scene was very powerful.” Freshman Julia Robinson defended her paper, “Passion: John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry” before a panel of three judges who asked scholarly questions. Sophomores Madeline Geitz and Hannah Kim dramatized a group performance entitled, “Emma Goldman.”  Geitz and Kim were recognized for their research into local history by the Early Settlers of the Case Western Reserve.  They received certificates and a check for their work.

In the Junior Group Division, four Langston Middle School students also submitted their projects on the theme of “Debate and Diplomacy in History.” All 8th graders wrote a research paper for English class on a National History Day topic of their choice that fit into the theme. Those who wanted to do the projects for the competition worked on them during NHD club time on Wednesdays during the 21st Century Program.

Max Annable and Schuyler Coleman presented their group documentary, American Isolationism before WWII.  Ian Sweet defended his individual documentary, The Hetch Hetchy Dam Debate and Tong Li explained an individual exhibit, Nanking Massacre, the Forgotten Holocaust.

Alison Smith, eighth grade language arts teacher explains, “I am very pleased with the quality of work that all of the 8th graders produced for their research projects and I am very exited about these NHD projects. It’s exciting to see students excited about research and history and to see them take on these projects as their own. THEY chose and researched their topics so they are highly invested in the content matter. This is IB at its best- student directed and student initiated projects.”

LMS teacher Alison Smith and OHS teacher Donna Shurr are the History Day advisors for Oberlin district students.  Bravo to all of the student participants for their hard work and for representing Oberlin and the Oberlin school district!

Preserving Oberlin’s History: Norman G. Long

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

By Alan Cuthbertson

I am a history major at the University of Akron, and I am hoping to someday obtain a career in historical research.  In preparation for that, I recently started a term of volunteer/internship work here at the Oberlin Heritage Center.  My first few weeks have been memorable ones.  Following introductions to the staff and to the various resources available at the center by Liz Schultz, I was introduced to the collections specialist Prue Richards.  Prue helped me to familiarize myself with document preservation, and I was soon after given my first assignment.

As my first project here at the Oberlin Heritage Center, I was assigned the task of preserving and documenting historical artifacts from a fascinating member of the Oberlin community, the late Mr. Norman G. Long.  I was presented with a rich assortment of letters, photographs, and various other personal documents with which to preserve and to paint a picture of this man who, it can be said, led a full, rich, significant life.

Mr. Long was a very religious man.  He served in the United States Army in 9th Cavalry.  His service included that as an officer and a chaplain.  He later received a Doctorate of Ministry from Vanderbilt University in 1974.  Additionally Mr. Long dabbled in real estate planning.

Among other things, I was able to preserve letters to his wife, college, and many photographs.  I also got to work with Mr. Long’s military decorations from the second World War.  This was probably the most interesting thing that I did for this project.  I say that because I have a keen interest in military history, and to work with some firsthand was was a real treat for me.  Mr. Long received many decorations for his World War II service.  However as I was researching what exactly what the decorations were for, I came across one that I have yet to identify.  It has a band of blue on the edges, followed by an equally thick band of white, followed by a slightly thicker band of red, with a relatively thin band of yellow centered in the middle.  All you military experts out there:  please weigh in on this!

I have already learned a lot from this experience.  I have obtained skills in preservation, documentation, cataloguing, and research.  Prue in particular has been an invaluable resource for me throughout this process.  I hope that the  work that I am doing now will someday be useful to others in trying to accomplish historical research and/or interpretation.  Through my work here at the Oberlin Heritage Center, I feel that I am gaining skills and knowledge that will help me tremendously in my forthcoming career.  I cannot say enough about the wonderful staff here at the center as well, they are all very friendly and helpful.

Rogaine 5%

A Winter Term at Oberlin Heritage Center

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

By Timothy Krumreigh (Oberlin College class of 2012)

Timothy Krumreig encapsulates a historic document so it is safely protected in our archives.

Week One:

The first week interning at the Heritage Center was devoted to introduction and familiarization. Liz and Prue showed me around the basement and allowed me to familiarize myself with the location of resources. Additionally, Prue pulled out documents and books  (i.e. Collections Goals of OHC and Introduction to Museum work) based on my interested in the museum field so I could begin obtaining some background knowledge.

Week Two:

During the second week of interning at the Heritage Center, I began to utilize the resources to start some projects. Rachel and I did a very basic inventory of 123 (formerly 21) South Professor Street for the owner. We looked through directories,  at online documents, and in college guides in hopes of discovering more information about the residents of 123 S. Professor Street. Additionally, Prue showed Rachel and I two examples of scrap books and explained the problems and solutions for preserving old scrapbooks. After the discussion, Prue showed us a recently donated scrap book and demonstrated the construction of a phase box.

Week Three:

Week three of interning at the Heritage Center was really exciting. Rachel and I continued to work on the inventory of 123 S. Professor Street. We completed looking through documents and electric resources and will now move on to the final write up for the file. I went on the field trip to McKay-Lodge conservancy and was very impressed. The trip gave me a good idea of some of things that can be done with conservation and allowed me to see some of the awesome processes used in order to conserve a piece of art or historic document.

When we arrived back at the Heritage Center, Rachel and I discussed gaining experience and working with historic objects and documents with Prue. The next day, Prue collected various documents and pictures in need of preservation. She showed us the flat file of Soldiers Monument and taught us how to encapsulate the documents and pictures that were in the flat file. After walking us through the first encapsulation, she allowed Rachel and myself to encapsulate the remaining documents. On Friday, Rachel and I were given a register from the college and asked to build a phase box, with some assistance were were able to complete a box.

Week 4:

I think week four of our winter term internship was probably the most exciting. The Heritage Center sent us to a symposium in Indianapolis, Indiana for two days. The symposium was called “The Green Historic Preservation Symposium,” which was sponsored by the EPA region five. The symposium brought together people from many different fields: preservation, conservation, construction, business, and many more. The idea of the conference was to bring different minds together to figure out what’s working, what’s not working, and what needs to change in terms of green historic preservation. People are now beginning to realize that tearing down historic homes to make way for “new, green construction,” is not actually green. Green historic preservation is a new and developing idea; hopefully as this idea develops, we will see it applied in Oberlin.

Week Five:

During our last week of work at the Heritage Center, we began working more on the doll house and the objects found in the attic. I was shown how to remove the surface dirt from the furniture and toys by using vulcanized rubber. After the toys were cleaned, I recorded the type of objects so they could later be accessioned. Prue showed us how to add an accession number to the Pass Perfect program and Rachel and I printed a new deed for the found doll house items. The last big project we worked on involved writing the accession numbers on the objects themselves. This process involves different chemical and products that allow a museum to write on the object, but also remove the writing if necessary. We painted on chemicals and wrote the tiny accession numbers on the collections.

Working with the Heritage Center has given me a lot of great insight to preservation and museum work. I would like to go into the preservation and/or museum field after Oberlin, so this internship has allowed me to “get my feet wet” and get an idea of what I may be getting myself into. I had a great time working with the heritage center staff and the other winter term volunteers. I hope to continue working with the heritage center in the future.

A Doll’s House

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

by Eli Goldberg (Oberlin College Class of 2012) 

Over the last month I’ve been working with Claire and Daniella to restore the Heritage Center’s 1930s doll house.  As an archaeology major, I’m used to working with old things – but this doll house is about 2,000 years out of my league!  Nevertheless, it’s been an amazing month. 
I read through dozens of old issues of the Ladies’ Home Journal, and drew up furniture plans for all the rooms in the dollhouse: living room with a grand piano, dining room, grown-up bedroom, and a twee little nursery that has its own toybox with tiny dolls. I vacuumed the dust out of miniature armchairs. I pored through countless wallpaper catalogs and daydreamed about floor coverings. (Hardwood floors? Handmade rugs? Yes we can!) 

Testing out a furnishings plan in the living room.

We went on two delightful field trips – one to a local art conservation facility (picture displaced sculptures lined up in the snow outside an Ohio barn, awaiting treatment); the other to meet with Steve McQuillin, an Oberlin alum who is a historic preservation consultant (working out of a breathtaking brick farmhouse that he restored himself). 

But halfway through the month – just when I thought I knew what I was doing – came the coolest surprise. 

My mission: take apart the dollhouse. This was a daunting assignment, as I’m excellent at deconstructing things, but not so great at putting them back together. Nevertheless, it will make it much, much easier to put in wallpaper and flooring. I prowled around the house with a camera, snapping photos of every nut, bolt, and screw. Then, tools in hand, I set about dismantling the beast, methodically laying out each piece on a card table. 

I unscrewed the fireplaces, pulled off the chimneys. Then I delicately lifted the roof, and very nearly died. 

Still carrying the roof, I wandered in a daze into the next room, where I found my supervisor. “Hey, uh, Prue? We’ve got an attic full of furniture.” 

“…oh, my goodness. You have got to be kidding me.” 

The sight that awaited us when we opened up the attic.

Oh, yes, there was furniture – some (sadly mildewy) couches, a complete bathroom set, a cast-iron kitchen range, a painted metal parlor set with manufacturer’s stamps. But there was so much more: a working mechanical music box. A toy cash register with coupons and newspaper scraps in the drawer. A pencil case with “March 1925” written on the back. An ancient Mickey Mouse figurine. A tiny tea set. It’s unbelievable that all of this was sitting under our noses the entire time – probably the person who donated the dollhouse didn’t even know it was there. 

I stayed well after my shift was over, exploring our new finds. After working with this house for two weeks, I thought I knew everything about it. But just pull off the roof, and suddenly the shape of my project has completely changed…