Ten years ago

It’s a day of nostalgia for us at Ohioana because ten years ago today, September 15, 2007, the very first Ohioana Book Festival was presented, “A ‘Good Roots’ Celebration,” based on the book edited by Lisa A. Watts and published by Ohio University Press & Swallow Press. Ten contributors to the book, including Lisa, came to Columbus for that inaugural event. Pictured here: (l-r seated) Anthony Doerr, Jill Bialosky, Scott Russell Sanders, Jill Salamon, Lisa A. Watts, Michael Dirda, and Elizabeth Dodd; standing l-r, Dale Keiger, James Toedtman, and Dan Cryer.

The picture was taken in the State Library of Ohio, which has been painted and primed and re-carpeted and improved over the past 10 years.

We couldn’t have done it without our supporters, who came in with gifts so that we could support our authors and have an all-around great celebration. We had a party at the Governor’s Residence afterword — and then we did it all again in  May of 2008 in order to get on track and keep the festival in the spring!

We had a lot to learn but learn we did. No one could’ve predicted then that a decade later the event would draw over 120 authors, 3,000-plus attendees and be the state’s largest celebration of Ohio books and authors.

 

 

 

 

Ohioana’s First Virtual Exhibit

This year marks Ohioana’s 88th year in operation, and during that time Ohioana has had plenty of time to grow, adapt and, of course, collect literature from Ohio authors. Ohioana’s collection now includes more than 45,000 books, 10,000 pieces of sheet music, and approximately 20,000 biographical files on Ohio writers, musicians, and artists. The best news? Any of these items can be requested to be viewed in our library, by anyone!

While this is wonderful for everyone who is able to make it to visit Ohioana’s collection in person in downtown Columbus, some may live too far away or simply may not be able to visit us. However, we think it’s very important to highlight interesting and culturally significant pieces in our collection, and to show them to you even if you can’t make it here to see them. That’s why Ohioana is happy to present our very first virtural exhibit!

This exhibit features the entirety of a scrapbook from Ohioana’s collection, created by the Junior-Juvenile division of the Ohio Federation of Music Clubs during 1935-1937. The Ohio Federation of Music Clubs (OFMC) is part of the National Federation of Music Clubs, which is dedicated to the love and study of music, and just celebrated their cenntinial year. Click here to visit the OFMC’s Website and learn more about the history of the organization, as well as current events.

The scrapbook is composed of 98 pages, with each page decorated by members of music-focused clubs from 30 towns and cities located across Ohio. Pages include articles and programs, as well as photographs, illustrations and handpainted, hand-drawn and handwritten components. This exhibit includes images of all of the pages of the scrapbook, as well as images of every program and fold-out featured on the individual pages.

This scrapbook is a proud part of Ohioana’s collection, and we are very happy to have the opportunity to share it with you! Click here to visit it, or navigate from our homepage by clicking on the link under “Resources”. Enjoy, and check back for more virtual exhibits featuring items from Ohioana’s collection in the future!

In case you missed it: the Mercantile Library

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The Winter issue of the Ohioana Quarterly focused on our good friend, the Mercantile Library in Cincinnati.

This library is one of the gems in the crown of the Queen City. It was established in 1835, according to the feature story written by Ohioana board member Bryan Loar. Its founders were merchants and clerks, hence the name. These young men of the city, who could expect a prosperous future for themselves as well as Cincinnati, placed a premium on learning and so created a place and an opportunity.

Can you imagine what a haven the library must have been from the rush and press of business in 1835? Cincinnati was hardly a backwater since it was a significant river port on the Ohio, with trade and a thriving meat-packing industry sending out salted pork all over the country. And can you imagine the despair over not one but TWO fires it endured, the first in 1845 and the second in 1869? Fortunately, most of the volumes were saved in both instances. And in 1904, the Mercantile Library found a home it has stayed in ever since.

The building is, of course, lovely. It has plenty of natural light, comfortable chairs, wood book shelves and cabinets, and works of art both venerable and modern. And it has kept up with the times. There are 80,000 books in the collection and membership has grown from the original 45 to the current 2,500. There are discussion groups, literary and other events, and even e-books.

As Bryan says in the article, “The Mercantile Library continues to support personal improvement and the exploration of contemporary ideas through an adaptive and open space, a notable collection, inspiring art, and extraordinary programs.”

Good Luck and Bad Luck

March is a month when we remember fate and destiny. Or the lack of fate and destiny. Sometimes, things just happen.

March 15 is famous for being the Ides of March, or the middle of the month. It’s the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated by members of his senate. It’s memorable to the English-speaking world because of William Shakespeare’s play. So it’s because of a writer that we remember this particular assassination and feel the chill in our own bones as we look at the calendar.

Likewise, March is the month of St. Patrick’s Day. But before you go slinging about the phrase “the luck of the Irish” like it’s something to celebrate, realize the phrase is ironic. The Irish were considered an unlucky group of people because of the poverty they faced in the old country and the prejudice they faced in the new.

Luck also reminds us at Ohioana about two sons of our state: Eddie Rickenbacker (good luck) and George Armstrong Custer (the other kind).

In our collection, we have Rickenbacker’s own memoirs of his service during the Great War, Fighting the Flying Circus, which was published in 1919 by the Frederick A. Stokes Company. The book includes a handsome portrait of Colonel Rickenbacker in the front as well as a glossary of terms unfamiliar to the reading public at the time, including “joystick” and “zoom.” A biography in our collection is titled Rickenbacker’s Luck, and was written by Finis Farr and published by Houghton Mifflin in 1979. Rickenbacker was never injured in combat, and not seriously in a childhood attempt to fly a bicycle off of the roof of the family garage. So that’s good luck right there.

Neither luck nor heroism are associated with Custer. He’s regarded, rightly or wrongly, as a vainglorious fool with emphasis on the “vain” part. The 1970 film, Little Big Man probably has a lot to do with that perception. The general was portrayed as a complete creep (at best) by actor Richard Mulligan. The truth, as always, is somewhere else, a concept investigated by Nathaniel Philbrick in The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of Little Bighorn. In the end, the only place left for Custer to find another way forward is in the land of alternate history, like the novel Custer’s Luck by Robert Skimin and William E. Moody, published by Herodias in 2000. Yes, the victor of Little Bighorn was elected president in 1880.

Strange days indeed. Be careful out there today, March 15, OK?

 

Happy International Women’s Day!

Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Nothing worthwhile happens overnight and change takes time — and work. Lots and lots of work.

In politics, Ohio can make a proud claim: Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) was the first woman to run for president of the United States. There’s some discussion about the legitimacy of her bid for office: Woodhull was under the age of 35 and of course women couldn’t vote so how could her bid for office be legitimate? Ooof. And some aspects of her personal life could be termed disorderly …  but when has that stopped members of the opposite sex from running for office?

Anyway.

Ohioana is sending love today to all of the women who write. Thank you today to Connie Schultz who writes about politics and who moderates a lively Facebook community. Thank you to Gloria Steinem, native of Toledo. Thank you Toni Morrison, for your amazing work. Toni Morrison won the Ohioana Book Award for Sula, and her mother, Mrs. George Wofford, accepted the award on Ms. Morrison’s behalf at the luncheon in 1975. Ms. Morrison also sent Ohioana a note in 1999, thanking us for honoring her:

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Ohio to be a gift to any writer’s imagination is high praise indeed. May we continue to serve as an inspiration.

 

Black History Month is something to celebrate!

Black History Month was much shorter when it began in 1926: it was only a week long. The celebration was the brain child of historian and educator Carter G. Woodson, who spent quite a bit of his youth in Huntington, West Virginia – one of Ohio’s neighbors to the south. February was chosen since it’s also the month of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

A new documentary was just released last week reminded us of one our books in the collection. The documentary is I Am Not Your Negro, which brings to life the words of James Baldwin. The book is Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White. Written by Kathy Y. Wilson, the title is based on Wilson’s exasperation with a white newsroom colleague. Sick and tired of questions about hip-hop groups, Wilson advised the colleague to get a black friend and said “I’m NOT your Negro tour guide.” And a column was born. Ms. Wilson’s collection of essay, published by Emmis Books in Cincinnati in 2004. The review in Publisher’s Weekly noted that “Wilson writes in a voice that can fairly simmer with disgust, indignation and a powerful blast of irony.”

We also want to share some images from events and the collection.

Way back when, one of the librarians at Ohioana wrote to Mr. Langston Hughes. He wrote back, alerting her to the existence of some writers that he thought she ought to know about.

We also want to share a picture of Rita Dove, who was honored by Ohioana in 2010 — The honor was all OURS, however. And to celebrate Ms. Dove a bit more, here’s a link to a recent interview that the Poetry Foundation recently published. Good stuff here. Good to read and take to heart.

We love our old books at Ohioana, not only for what’s between the covers but for the covers themselves. We love this book for the paisley print, like fabric, and for the photo of the sweet and handsome man. While Dunbar’s use of dialect in written speech has long fallen from use, we can still appreciate his intent to write with love and compassion as well as his commercial and  popular success.  As Nikki Giovanni said of Dunbar, “He wanted to be a writer, and he wrote.”