What kind of Miami Valley archivist would I be if I didn’t acknowledge the centennial of the 1913 flood on my history/archives blog?
This week marks 100 years since flood waters ravaged the Miami Valley, bringing widespread devastation to cities like Dayton, Piqua, Troy, and Hamilton, as well as many other parts of Ohio (including my hometown of Portsmouth). This particular flood was so severe in the Dayton area (which was rather used to floods) that area residents finally said, “We’re not going to just sit back and take this from anymore, Great Miami River!” Within months, a fundraising campaign generated over $2 million towards the creation what is now the Miami Conservancy District, a system of dams and other mechanisms that control the rivers and have successfully prevented flooding since its completion. (Hooray!)
I’ve worked in Dayton-area archives long enough to know that the 1913 flood has been remembered on many days and in many ways ever since, as an important event in our area’s history. But we do love anniversaries—and the 100th is a very special one, after all, since it’s such a nice, round number!
There’s been a lot going on to commemorate the 1913 flood this year. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve already been involved in so much of it that I damn-near forgot to even mention it here, because I feel like my “1913 flood commemorating” mojo is virtually exhausted by now! But like I said, what kind of Miami Valley archivist would I be if I didn’t say something on my own blog as well?
So…well…to avoid re-inventing the wheel here, I think I’ll just point you to some of the things that I and others have been working on…
Most of the 1913 flood commemoration activities that I was personally aware of are mentioned in an article I wrote for the Spring 2013 issue of the Ohio Archivist (the newsletter of the Society of Ohio Archivists- see page 28). But I certainly want to point your attention to the official commemoration web site 1913flood.com.
We’ve done some cool things where I work at Wright State, too—so much so that we’ve even dedicated an entire section of the WSU Special Collections & Archives web page to the 1913 flood. There are a couple of exhibits listed, one of which is a web exhibit done a few years back called The Flood Menace. There is also info about the 1913 flood traveling exhibit a couple of my colleagues created–what it is, pictures, how to borrow it, etc. There’s also a lengthy Resource List detailing what research materials about the flood can be found at WSU and other area archives. (Don’t forget to check out the neat flood stuff we’ve got on our Campus Repository—interviews with flood survivors, for instance!) Oh, and there’s also an in-real-life flood exhibit (that I just happened to make) on the first floor of the Dunbar Library from now until about June.
I think one of my favorite projects I’ve personally done to remember the flood is the transcriptions of flood diaries and letters that will be on the WSU Special Collections & Archives blog Out of the Box this week. (I just love letters and diaries; I can get lost in them so easily.) We’ll be following flood survivors Margaret Smell, J.G.C. Schenck Sr., Edward and Nellie Neukom, and Milton Wright (yes, that Milton Wright- father of the famous Wright brothers!), through their flood experiences, reading about those experiences in their own words. Where applicable, I’ve added some small explanations, and I also hunted up some great photos from our collection to help illustrate their stories. I recommend checking out this intro to the diary/letter series, and there will be daily updates from the writers from today through early April.
As you may recall, I have written about the flood here before. I wrote a blog post about it a couple of years ago: “Remembering the 1913 Flood” (March 24, 2011). Then there are those super-cool geo-tagged maps I made using Flickr and Geo-Slideshow [May 9, 2011], for the flood photos and postcards at the Dayton Metro Library (where I used to work). And don’t forget the 1913 flood before-and-after exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute, which, although mentioned in my SOA article and on the 1913flood.com web site, bears repeating because I was privileged to see it in February, and it is super-awesome.
Obviously, there’s plenty more out there besides what I’ve mentioned here. (And let’s face it, I’m going to be a little biased towards the projects that I’ve personally worked so hard on—certainly not to undercut how hard everyone else has worked on their projects, but this is my blog, so why wouldn’t I toot my own horn a bit?) There have been tons of really great articles about the flood and the commemoration activities in the Dayton Daily News (and I’m sure many other area papers) lately.
DDN writer Meredith Moss did a great spread about the flood in last Sunday’s newspaper (over one whole page in the print edition); you can read the online version here, and you might just see a few quotes from yours truly in it. (Normally, my supervisor and head of the archives Dawne Dewey answers the press inquiries, but a combination of circumstances—one being that Dawne was out that day and another being that someone told the reporter to ask me because I’d been doing a lot of flood activities lately—led to my name being the one in the paper this time.)
Well, I think that’s about all I have to say about the flood for now. I hope anyone with an interest in this particular part of Dayton’s history takes notice of all these projects and events going on this spring, because there’s lots of great stuff to experience and absorb….and it might be another nice-round-number-of-years (25? 50? 100?) before there’s so much terrific culture being dedicated to the 1913 flood once again.