MVAR Recap 8/18

The most recent meeting of the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable (MVAR) was hosted today by the WACO Air Museum at Historic WACO Field in Troy, Ohio.

WACO Air Museum

WACO Air Museum

The meeting commenced at 10:00 a.m. with everyone giving their introductions and institutional reports. For the most part, we were all reporting on “the usual” at our institutions. In my own report, I shared that:

  • I’m finally tackling the 34 boxes of Forrer-Peirce-Wood materials (MS-018). As you know if you’ve been reading my previous posts, Samuel Forrer was one of the “top 3” civil engineers on the Miami-Erie Canal project. A significant portion of the collection consists of the papers of his grandchildren, members of the Peirce family. There are many of them, and they did a variety of things, which I’m sure I will probably write about at some point…if not, you’ll be able to read about it in the finding aid.
  • We have created an “Early Obituaries” digital collection – which is not yet “live” but when it is, will be available on our Dayton Remembers site. These are all pre-1923 (so no copyright issues) obits for famous Daytonians (such as Wilbur Wright) and people who died as a result of Spanish Flu or World War I, for instance.
  • The Main Library is in the process of brainstorming about ways to improve services and layout in the building. The Main Library was built in 1962, but unfortunately a whole new building is just not in the cards right now. So we are exploring how to re-invent the space we have to improve our services.
  • And finally – I was very excited last night to receive an email (at my personal email account) from a researcher who found one of our Dayton Metro Library collections through this blog. I’m glad for evidence that people (even a few people) have found my postings interesting and helpful.

One of the institutional reports included an anecdote about an unusual item found in a museum collection. The reporter then issued this challenge to the rest of us: What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in your collection — something that really didn’t belong there?  I think I would have to say the weirdest thing I’ve found so far was that Bible with all the locks of hair in it (see “Hair in a Book,” May 24, 2011]!

Judy Deeter, our host, shared the following news about goings-on in Troy:

After the institutional reports, our Roundtable facilitator Rachel reviewed the dates and locations of upcoming conferences of interest:

Rachel also floated the idea of possibly discussing particular topics of interest at future meetings, in addition to giving our institutional reports. This idea was met with positive feedback, so it may be incorporated into future MVAR meetings.

About 11:15, we heard a brief presentation from a student intern about his work in cataloging the collections.

Then, we received a guided tour of the museum from executive director Don Willis. I learned many interesting things about WACO during this tour — which, not to discount the quality of the tour or the importance of WACO, but that may not be as impressive as it sounds since I knew pretty much nothing about the company prior to today.

First things first : WACO – which should be pronounced in such a way as to rhyme with the word “taco” – was originally the Weaver Aircraft Company, and it manufactured airplanes from shortly after World War I until shortly after World War II. (The approximate dates 1919 to 1947 were mentioned.) According to the brochure I picked up in the lobby, WACO “was the Boeing of its day, and produced more civil aircraft than any other manufacturer in the country in the late 1920s and early 30s.” And it was located right here in the Miami Valley, in Troy, Ohio!

Due to the fact that very few WACO planes were identical, this lack of standardization hurt WACO during WWII when the U.S. government preferred contracts with airplane manufacturers who used more standardization. WACO did get one WWII era government contract for a glider. According to Mr. Willis, gliders were to WWII as helicopters were to later wars : used to drop troops and supplies. The WACO glider could haul up to 12 people; it could also haul a Jeep. The glider was towed by a C-47 airplane using a tow rope and then let go at the appropriate area. These WACO gliders were used in the invasion of Normandy, as well as in other operations in Europe and the Pacific during WWII.

Here are some examples of WACO aircraft, from the museum’s exhibits (click to view larger on my Flickr page):

WACO Model 9

WACO Model 9

WACO ATO Taperwing

WACO ATO Taperwing

Red Baron plane

Red Baron plane

These are just a few shots that I snapped on my way out of the meeting. There are many other interesting things to see there, so if you are interested in historic airplanes, I’d definitely recommend a visit. There are also tons more photos on the WACO Air Museum web site – so check it out as well!

After our tour was over, we had a delicious lunch of turkey club sandwiches — I’m being completely serious, that sandwich was amazing — whilst swapping more archives and museum “war stories”. Then about 1:00, we all dispersed back to our usual abodes, archives and museums throughout the Miami Valley.

The next meeting will be November 17th. Let me know if you need the location.

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