By Judith Bratten
Between wintry weather, too many holiday treats, and COVID-19 restrictions, it may be more difficult to stay in shape in the new year. You may have to develop a new strategy to maintain your physical health. But don’t neglect your intellectual health! One way to maintain sanity and to feel in control during uncertain times is to learn how our forebears handled difficulties and challenges in the past.
A study of history helps you keep your perspective as well as discover interesting people and their stories. And exploring local history offers the opportunity to see your own area in a new light.
Ohio is filled with historic sites, museums, houses, and organizations that make history accessible and bring to life the names, dates, and events that populate textbooks and encyclopedias. There are hundreds of local history resources in the state. Almost every county has a historical association, society, or museum. Entire towns have been designated as historic sites while others have historic districts.
Experts in researching and cataloguing documents, deeds, certificates, and letters have done the work of compiling the information, digitizing it, and making it available to the average person. Because of their efforts, you can track the journeys of pioneer ancestors, learn how your town got its name, discover both the unsavory characters and the heroic founders of your city, and develop a better appreciation of how we got to where we are now as a nation.
You can be a history detective in the comfort of your own home via the computer since most sites have an internet presence. Begin your exploration at the Ohio Local History Alliance (formerly the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums), a network of local historical societies, history museums, archives, libraries, genealogical societies and historic preservation groups throughout Ohio involved in collecting, preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history (www.ohiohla.org).
If you are from a family that has roots in Ohio, the next step would be the Ohio Genealogical Society whose mission is protecting and sharing Ohio’s family history resources, developing engaging educational opportunities, and connecting professional and amateur genealogists (www.ogs.org).
You undoubtedly have noticed the historical markers that can be found all over the state. The Ohio Historical Markers program, begun in the 1950s, encompasses over 1,600 unique markers that tell the state’s history as written by its communities.
The program is administered by the Local History Services Department of the Ohio History Connection which lists them and their locations (www.ohiohistory.org).
Once you’ve done your reading, make plans to visit the many sites that recreate periods of history allowing visitors a sense of the times. From representations of early settlement to westward expansion to the mighty industrial era to the space age, museums and exhibits abound throughout Ohio.
Whether at Perrysburg and Fort Meigs in western Ohio, Historic Fort Steuben in Steubenville in the east or Fort Harmar in Marietta in the south, visitors find not only military history but also a presentation of early American everyday life.
When standing within the picket walls of these sites, all those words and pictures seen in books or online take on new significance.
Ready to explore in person? Most historic sites expect to reopen to the public in April or May, so you have plenty of time to plan a road trip that suits your wallet and interests. Begin at https://ohio.org – the state’s website for tourism which provides itineraries, maps, and travel suggestions as well as a comprehensive list of historic attractions.
We are now recovering from the historic Pandemic of 2020, which left a trail of tales – some sad, some inspiring – but all that we can tell our children and grandchildren in years to come. For this new year, let’s take time to learn about the past and then follow the historic trails of previous generations with a greater appreciation for the challenges we all face.
Winter Exercise: Immerse Yourself in History in Steubenville