Tag Archives: wright state university

Thank you, Mr. Oelman. No, really.

In June 2004, the summer between my junior and senior year of undergraduate studies at Wright State University, I received a notification from the Wright State University Scholarship Committee that I had been selected to receive the Robert S. Oelman scholarship in the amount of $500 for one year.

Unlike most of the scholarships I had received from WSU over the years, this one had very specific stipulations to along with it, one of which being to write a letter addressed directly to the donor, Robert S. Oelman, which I had to send back to the WSU Foundation, who then forwarded it to Mr. Oelman at his home. No complaints here! A timely and sincere thank-you letter seemed a more than fair requirement in exchange for $500 towards paying for my college.

And so I wrote the following on June 26, 2004 (yes I still have a copy of the letter and managed to dig it up in a matter of minutes- archivist here!):

Dear Mr. Oelman:

I hope this letter finds you well. Recently, the Wright State University Scholarship Committee notified me that I have been awarded the Robert S. Oelman Scholarship in the amount of $500 for next school year. I was pleasantly surprised and grateful to receive your generous donation because, as you know, the cost of higher education is rising every day.

Next year will be my fourth and final year at Wright State University. In June 2005, I will graduate with a B.A. in History and Latin. After graduation, I plan to further my education. I have learned many things these past few years, not least of all the fact that knowledge is valuable and powerful.

Once again, I whole-heartedly thank you for your kind generosity to Wright State University and to me. It is very much appreciated.

Sincerely,
Lisa M. Pasquinelli

At the time, I did not know to whom I was writing that letter, other than that he was a presumably wealthy man who lived in Florida and who gave generously to the university, though as to his specific connection to WSU or why he would choose to give us money, I had no idea—except, oh hey, he had the same last name as one of the main instructional buildings, Oelman Hall. But whether that was the same man the building was named after (it was) or why they’d name a building after him, I honestly had no clue.

But now I know.

Robert Schantz Oelman (1909-2007) was one of the founders of Wright State University—before it was even Wright State, when it was still the “Dayton Campus” of Ohio State University & Miami University in the early 1960s; he was chair of the first WSU Board of Trustees and served on it until 1976. He and his wife were also descended from prominent Dayton families: his mother was a Schantz, and his wife Mary was descended from the Peirce and Forrer families.

I know all this now for a number of inter-related reasons:

I’m glad to finally know who he was and how he “fit” into Dayton and Wright State. And I’m so, so pleased that I’ve had an opportunity to, in some small way, help to pay him back a little bit—not that he was looking to be paid back, certainly, but it’s a nice little twist of fate.

I took that $500 and put it towards a B.A. in history (at a school Mr. Oelman helped to found), that later led to an M.A. in history with an emphasis on archives (again, at the same school that he helped to found). That led to my first archives job (indeed, my first full time job) at the Dayton Metro Library, where one of my last tasks before leaving (and certainly the one that took the longest and possibly the one of which I am most proud) was arranging and describing a large archival collection, which happened (I found out as I was researching it) to contain the papers of several generations of Mrs. Oelman’s ancestors. And just as I finished that up, I was offered the opportunity to work as an archivist at Wright State University, a university which, without Mr. Oelman, might never have existed in the first place—and now there I am, helping keep its history safe and promoting its collections to anyone who will listen (and, I hope, helping in some way to preserve and protect part of Oelman’s legacy).

Now that I know who Robert Oelman really was, that 2004 thank-you letter looks pretty lame. I should have been thanking him for a lot more than the money. Sure, $500 is a generous gift, any way you slice it, and I did then, and do now, appreciate it.

But I know now, he didn’t just give me $500. He (and a number of others, of course) gave me Wright State University. I spent 6 years learning and growing as a student at Wright State, and now I continue learning and growing there as an archives professional. Wright State University is where I started dating my husband and where I met the best friends I’ve ever had.

I literally don’t know where I’d be if it hadn’t been for Robert S. Oelman’s interest in and dedication to Wright State University.

So I say again–with infinitely more gusto and understanding this time–thank you, Mr. Oelman. No, really. You have no idea.

Robert Schantz Oelman died May 10, 2007, in Palm Beach County, Florida (read his obit in the New York Times), so I know he’ll never read this. But I wanted to “put it out there” to express my thanks to him, even if it has to be posthumously.

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Memento scribere

Memento scribere. Remember to write.

Maybe I need to write that on my hand (though I’d have to do it repeatedly thanks to hand-washing). Or perhaps (probably) it would be more effective to make it an Outlook task. Actually, I used to have such a thing, but it’s been tossed by the wayside for the past few months.

My new job (which I started in November) has…shall we say…routinely absorbed much of my naturally existing “writing mojo.” So…not a ton of writing mojo has been leftover for this, my public blog, or even my private writings. But that’s OK. For now. It will balance out eventually, I’m sure; hopefully it won’t be too long, because I miss this place!

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that you can “find me” over on the blogs of the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives…just in case you are really jonesing for some of my writing.

The Out of the Box blog is our “general” blog for the archives- highlighting collections, making announcements, etc. And then we also have the Dayton Daily News Archive blog, which is exclusively for materials (including LOTS of photos) from the Dayton Daily News Archive (an extremely large newspaper morgue archive that WSU SCA has had for a few years now). If it says it was posted by “Lisa,” then I probably wrote it (unless it says otherwise).

So anyway… I will try to get back into remember to write mode, but until then, please continue “glancing backwards” vicariously through the blogs where I have been writing. And there’s no ignoring those — that’s (part of) what they pay me for! — so it’s certainly part of my agenda (“things that must be done” – sorry, this former Latin student couldn’t resist another Latin lesson for ya!).

MVAR Recap 11/15/2012

Last Thursday (November 15) was the most recent meeting of the Miami Valley Archivists Roundtable (or, MVAR), an informal gathering of archivists in and around Dayton, Ohio. This time, we met at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives. Our hosts were Dawne Dewey, Head of the Special Collections & Archives, and Bill McIntire, Dayton Daily News archivist.

*****

This was my first meeting as Chair of the MVAR, and I had a few discussion points I wanted to bring up before we did our institutional reports:

1) I would like to re-instate the keeping of a (for lack of a better term) “membership list”. Since MVAR is very informal and there are no dues, the only real criterion for “membership” is that the person have some interest in “Miami Valley Archives” (as it is the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable). I had noticed from the MVAR Archives (which I didn’t even know existed – although it should have been obvious, seeing as it’s a group of archivists! – until Rachel brought it to me in August) that we used to have an actual member list of names and contact information. I think this would be a good record of growth and changes in the group, more than anything else.

2) I would also like to create a web presence for the MVAR. I had thought for a while that this might be a good idea, but the point really hit home when I saw that on the SAA’s list of archival organizations the entry for MVAR has a link to my blog as the web site. And it was like that even before I became chair or updated the chair’s contact info with them; they did it on their own, apparently because it was the only reference to MVAR that they could find on the web. I think it would be good if we changed that. It could be as simple as a list of the meetings and locations on a free WordPress site.

Both of these suggestions were met with generally positive comments. Someone expressed concern that if we had a web site (or a Facebook group) that the announcements on the email list might dwindle. I assured them that I wanted the web site to be in addition to, not instead of, what we do now.

After the meeting, I created a brief survey to gauge interest in a membership list and a web site from the whole of MVAR (since not everyone comes to every meeting) and sent out by email. As of this writing, 25 people have responded, and 100% of respondents agreed that a membership list is a good idea and 100% also agreed that a web presence is a good idea. I have not yet acted on either yet, though.

I made one other announcement that I thought would be of interest to MVAR members (although many are already aware, I’m sure): to remind them of the upcoming 1913 Flood centennial (in March) and to mention the official 1913 Flood Facebook page, Twitter feed (@1913flood), and web site (http://www.1913flood.com/ – forthcoming). Our next MVAR meeting is not until February, and that seemed too late to be spreading the word!

Oh – and one last thing – I subjected everyone to couple of photos. I promised I wouldn’t do this every time, but since it was my first MVAR… Someone also offered to take one of me, too (the third picture):

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After these announcements (and photos), we did our institutional reports.

*****

The institutional reports consist of each person in attendance taking a turn, stating their name, position, and institution, and sharing a little bit about what they have been up to lately, archives-wise. (The label “institutional reports” may make it sound formal, but it’s really not!) Here are some snippets from the reports that I hope my peers won’t mind my sharing:

Judy Deeter of the Troy Historical Society passed around a copy of the recently published Arcadia book Troy and the Great Flood of 1913 (on sale Dec. 3), which she helped write, as well as a copy of Scott Trostel’s new book And Through the Black Night of Terror (about the 1913 flood in the northern Miami Valley).

Dawne Dewey of the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives announced that the Public History Graduate Symposium will be held on March 22, 2013, with the Smithsonian’s Tom Crouch as plenary speaker. (This will be the second PH Symposium, and I am looking forward to it. I really enjoyed the 2012 WSU Public History Symposium!) Dawne also mentioned that one of her grad assistants is compiling a list of local resources on the 1913 Flood, so let her know if you have any 1913 Flood collections!

Toni Vanden Bos & Gino Pasi, both also of WSU SC&A, announced that the 1913 Flood traveling exhibit that they created will soon be available for institutions to borrow — so watch the SC&A web site for info!

*****

When it was my turn to report (as a new archivist at the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives), I simply stated that I am still in the “getting the lay of the land” phase of my position, since it was only my second week, so I did not have anything terribly exciting to report just yet!

*****

After the institutional reports, we went over the list of relevant upcoming conferences:

*****

Future MVAR Meeting Dates:

February 21, 2013 – Clark County Historical Society
May 16, 2013 (host still needed)
August 15, 2013 (host still needed)
November 21, 2013 (host still needed)

We still need hosts for all of the above meetings except the February meeting. If you want to volunteer to host a meeting, please contact me! Otherwise, take your chances, because if nobody volunteers, I will have to start cornering people individually with cold calls! 🙂

Historically, I have not liked to post the info about where an upcoming meeting is going to be held. What if we have pranksters? Or crashers? Or bombers? I brought this up when discussing the potential web site, and people didn’t seem too concerned about it. Actually, it sounded like “trying to find out where the next meeting is” was (in most cases) the primary purpose for Googling “Miami Valley Archives Roundtable” in the first place. So…I guess I won’t worry about it anymore!

*****

Next, we had a presentation and tour of the new Dayton Daily News Archive at WSU.

DDN Archivist Bill McIntire gave a great presentation about the DDN Archive Project and its many strengths and challenges:

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2012-11-15_MVAR_4 : Bill giving presentation

And then we got a tour of the DDN Archive space, including a great selection of items that Bill had on display for us to look at:

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*****

After the tour, several of us headed out to the lunch portion of the meeting, which was held at the Great American Grill in the new Hilton Garden Inn on Pentagon Boulevard.

*****

Another successful (and fun) MVAR meeting on the books!

Wright State University Public History Graduate Symposium, Mar. 2, 2012

Yesterday, I attended “Wright in Your Own Backyard: Historical Heritage and Collective Memories,” a symposium of presentations by Wright State University Public History graduate students.

Wright in Your Own Backyard program cover

Wright in Your Own Backyard program cover

If I heard correctly, this was the first one they’ve ever had, and I hope that there will be many more, because it was really great. I really enjoyed all the presentations (don’t worry, I’ll give more details in a minute), which is saying something because let’s face it, who hasn’t been to a conference where some of the presentations were just…well, they had you watching the clock?

The symposium also had the right balance of professionalism and casualness — it was structured enough to be appropriately professional and give the students a good experience of being presenters, but it was also…well, fun. Or maybe it’s just that I feel more relaxed attending anything at Wright State — partly because it really is “wright” in my own backyard (low stress as far as travel! it’s 20 minutes away!), and partly because I spent 6 good years of my life there, so it’s familiar and feels like home.

But enough about that, you want to hear about the presentations…

Wright in Your Own Backyard program

Wright in Your Own Backyard program

Keynote Speaker – Amanda Wright Lane

Our keynote speaker was to be Amanda Wright Lane, who is a great grand-niece of the Wright Brothers and a spokesperson for the Wright Legacy. Unfortunately, she received a last minute invitation to an event honoring John Glenn in Cleveland for the same day and felt it was very important that she attend it. However! She was able to make time to come to Wright State the day before and give her talk to a small group of students, and the talk was videotaped. So we were able to enjoy Ms. Wright Lane’s address after all.

Amanda Wright Lane giving her talk to us via video

Amanda Wright Lane giving her talk to us via video

Ms. Wright Lane advised us to “make public history personal,” and asked the rhetorical question, “What gives you goosebumps?

Then she told us about two of her “goosebump moments” wherein she was able to really connect “Uncle Will and Uncle Orv,” the relatives she kept hearing about, to “the Wright Brothers,” the inventors of the airplane.

One example was when she was looking through a notebook of calculations and found her aunt Ivonette’s name scrawled on a page — a concrete connection between the inventors and the family.

Another was reading the entry in the Bishop Milton Wright’s diary from the day his son Wilbur Wright died in 1912. Reading the words of a grieving father, you could see Wilbur not as a famous inventor but as someone’s son.

She closed her address by saying, “If you look hard enough, you can find the pieces on the pages of history that are full of personal consequence.”

Indeed. Dawne Dewey, director of the Public History Program and Head of the WSU Special Collections & Archives, reiterated that, as public historians, we help to “bring it home” so people can really make those connections [between the history they’ve read in books and the real people it happened to].

Session I: “Local History: From Preservation to Activism”
Moderated by Lisa P. Rickey, archivist & local history reference librarian at Dayton Metro Library

Misti Spillman presented “The Restoration of Howell Cemetery,” in which she described her project of restoring a woebegone cemetery in Shelby County. She fixed and cleaned many gravestones, researched the “inhabitants”, and got a new sign erected. At one point she stated that a cemetery is a primary source that is accessible to the public, right outside, an sort of outdoor museum — and I thought that was pretty cool.

Robin Heise presented “Yellow Springs: A Historical Menagerie.” Her project had involved conducting deed research on 12 historic homes in Yellow Springs, but the presentation focused mainly on six of the interesting characters (previous owners of the homes) that she had encountered in her research. They were: William Mills, the Means family, Julius Cone, Col. Thomas Tchou, John W. Hamilton, and William Wallace Carr. You can learn more about her project at her blog http://ysheritage.org/.

Elise Kelly presented “Oral History: A Dynamic Source for Community Development,” in which she discussed her project conducting oral history interviews with 5 activists in Dayton’s Latino community — namely, Rosa Caskey, Tony Ortiz, Maria Goeser, Victor Garcia, and Sr. Maria Stacy. She played several audio clips during her presentation, which I thought was a really excellent touch, since after all, the project was about recording people’s experiences in their own words and voices. (If you would like to hear the interviews yourself, they will be deposited at the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives.)

As the moderator, I was delighted (and a little relieved) that there were lots of questions for the presenters — since if there weren’t, I would need to ask them some questions myself. Then again, their presentations were so interesting that I actually had no trouble coming up with a few questions myself anyway. Most of my questions were the same ones other people had, so they were covered by various audience members.

I did have one general question for all the presenters though, but I can’t really take credit for it. It stemmed directly from Ms. Wright Lane’s address:

What was one of your “goosebumpy moments” while you were doing your projects?

Misti told of discovering that an unmarked grave was actually that of a soldier (Revolutionary War, I believe she said). Robin mentioned learning that Col. Tchou, whom she had not heard of, actually had a very interesting, important life. And Elise said it was just hearing the stories in people’s own voices. (Truly, oral history is just filled with one “goosebumpy moment” right after another.)

Lunch

We had an hour an a half for lunch, but many of us just went around the corner to the Union Market. (Hey, I actually really like that place and was looking forward to eating there again. And okay, I also didn’t want to deal with the rain, parking, or Beavercreek restaurants at lunchtime.)

Actually, there ended up being quite a few of us there, so we all sat together at a long table. Here’s a picture that Dawne took with my camera:

Public History crew at lunch

Public History crew at lunch

Seriously, if you ever need a picture taken of something and don’t have a camera, come find me — if I’m there — because I am pretty much always packing a camera.

Lunch involved lots of lively conversation — who could expect anything less from this group? One of the public history students who wasn’t presenting that day told us in great detail about her research about a little-covered angle on the life of John Dillinger. I won’t give away the details, in case she wants to write a book about it — and I hope she does, because it was a fascinating topic!

Introduction to Wright State’s Public History Program

After we returned from lunch, Dawne Dewey gave us an overview of the public history program, including: its mission (to which Dawne suggested perhaps we should append “cause goosebumps”), curriculum, faculty, activities, etc. (You can read all about WSU’s Public History program at their web site.) While those unfamiliar with the program were probably more interested in the actual content, seasoned grads Natalie Fritz and I were actually more excited about seeing pictures of so many former classmates in the PowerPoint slides and trying to remember the activities depicted.

Public History at Wright State University

Public History at Wright State University

Session II: “The Challenges of Museum and Archival Collections”
Moderated by Virginia Weygandt, Director of Collections for the Clark County Historical Society

Maggie Zakri presented “Sharing the Table: Unique Challenges of Processing Collections outside of the Archives,” in which she discussed some of the pros and cons of helping someone preserve their personal collection, in this case the archival materials (aka memories) of a woman whose Jewish family had escaped from France during WWII. Maggie is properly housing and digitizing everything and also making a scrapbook (using the scans) so the woman’s family can still enjoy the content while keeping the originals safe. Really neat project! (And on a personal note: This gives me some good ideas about my grandparents’ collections, which I have so graciously been permitted by my other family members to curate…)

Nicole Williams presented “Adventures in Medical Collections,” wherein she described her activities (adventures, indeed!) with the medical collections of the Greene County Historical Society. She encountered many problems related to accessioning. She has also encountered many hazardous materials (mercury, lead, arsenic, opiates, flammable chemicals, etc.) and hit some roadblocks in determining how to safely and responsibly dispose of them. She also gave us a helpful list of do’s and don’ts when working with these types of collections.

Linda Collins presented “Selling Deaccessioned Objects: Decreasing Controversy with Communication.” Museums often find themselves in possession of many items that have come into their collections over the years but that do not directly relate to the museum’s mission and collecting policy. Due to constraints of funding and space, they sometimes choose to “deaccession” these items (remove them from the collection), and they may be auctioned off. Linda pointed out that if museums are honest with the public about why they are getting rid of these items and how the money will be used, it can help smooth over any objections the community may have. She gave us examples of museums that had done this well (the Clark County Historical Society and the Indianapolis Museum of Art) and one that did not do so well (Philadelphia History Museum).

During the Q&A portion of this session, someone commented about how the presentations had caused her to “run the gamut” of emotions, at which point someone else piped up, “Then we’ve done our job.” 🙂

Session III: “Ethnic and Community Identity in the Miami Valley”
Moderated by Dr. Barbara Green, WSU professor of African American History

Noel Rihm presented “Longtown: Cultural Diversity in Darke County, Ohio,” about her research (and the resulting long-term exhibit at the Garst Museum) concerning Longtown, a multiracial settlement of African Americans, Native Americans, and white people, that straddled the border of Darke County, Ohio, and Randolph County, Indiana, beginning in 1822. She said the primary message she wanted to convey with the exhibit was that Longtown was about equality, liberty, and community. She hopes that people will feel immersed and get something emotional out of it. She also pointed out that these smaller community stories help people to see the big picture of history, which I think is an excellent point and a huge piece of what public history is all about.

Jeri Kniess presented “When Malindy Sings: The Influence of Matilda Dunbar on Paul Laurence Dunbar.” Jeri gave us a good deal of biographical background about Matilda Dunbar, including lots of interesting images of primary sources, and discussed why she feels it is important to know Matilda in order to better understand her son Paul. Jeri mentioned possibly wanting to write a book about this, especially since she has run across several instances of where published information about Matilda has been incorrect. I hope she does write a book — and makes sure to let Dayton Metro Library know so we can buy a copy!

Casey Huegel presented “Rethinking the Dunbar House: Interpretation and Place in a Changing Landscape,” in which he questioned the relationship of the Dunbar House to the rest of the Dayton Aviation Heritage Park and the Aviation Trail. He also discussed West Dayton in general and had some really cool “before and after” photos of several buildings that have been restored since the early ’90s. When I asked where the “before” photos came from — people ask us for old photos of West Dayton (and many other spots) all the time at the library — it turned out that they were from a collection at the National Park Service.

In Closing…

After the closing remarks of the symposium, student Jeremy Katz held a poster session about his project involving the processing of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton records (MS-434 at WSU SCA).

Pfew! And that wrapped up the day! The symposium was really awesome — just great, interesting presentations. I never cease to be amazed at all the cool things that public historians can do and are doing. I was really honored to be asked to be a part of this program, and I’m so glad I was able to attend. I am really looking forward to seeing what the Public History Symposium will have in store next year.