Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Let's Go to the Ohio History Center

My wife and I are on vacation this week. We were supposed to go to France. But we had to change our plans. (More about that another time.) So, we're just taking it easy and going on day trips.

Today, we went to the Ohio History Center in Columbus. It houses the main museum and offices of the Ohio Historical Society.

If you've never been to the center or if, as was true for us, it's been a few years since you last visited, I think that you would love to see it!

To tell the truth, the place looked a bit haggard the last time we were there. But, as soon as we walked through the entrance today, it was apparent that the new OHS director has made some changes. The center didn't look at all fusty and it's less cluttered and more enticing than ever.

Ann and I wanted to see several temporary exhibits going on at the center right now. Two of them were especially good!

One is The War of 1812: Ohio on the Frontline.

This may not seem like a very sexy topic. But, even granting that I'm a history nerd, the war was an important event and not just because it was while being held captive by the British that Francis Scott Key composed The Star-Spangled Banner. Many historians believe that the independence of the infant United States from Great Britain, tenuous up to that point, was finally won by the War of 1812.

And many of the most critical battles of the war occurred either in Ohio or close to its shores on Lake Erie.

Among the most interesting items on display were gifts given by native Americans to General Anthony Wayne. Wayne was the commander of US forces at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which occurred in northwest Ohio. Among the items were a wampum and a peace pipe.

Despite how well the War of 1812 turned out for the United States, it was an imbecilic conflict for the country to enter. Were it not for the fact that the Brits were also then involved in a war with Napoleon's France, the War of 1812 would almost certainly have resulted in a crushing defeat for the States and the reestablishment of British rule over the country.

One person who didn't want to go to war at the time was Thomas Worthington, the father of Ohio statehood and founder of the Ohio town in which we live these days, Logan. Worthington was serving in the US Senate when the US declared war on Britain. But he voted against the declaration, viewing the conflict as suicidal and unnecessary. Despite his misgivings though, Worthington served as a general in the conflict.

By the way, two books I recommend for getting a good understanding of the War of 1812 and the pros and cons of entering the conflict are James Madison (The American Presidents Series) by Garry Wills and Thomas Worthington: Father of Ohio Statehood by Alfred Byron Sears.

A second temporary exhibit at the Ohio History Center is Controversy 2: Pieces We Don't Talk About. As the OHS website explains, this exhibit:
...invites guests to explore...race stereotypes from a historical perspective. In 'Controversy 2: Pieces We Don’t Talk About', visitors are encouraged to reflect on how stereotypes influence personal identity. 
Among the items in the exhibit is a handmade set of bowling pins, each pin depicting a disparaging stereotype of various races and ethnic groups.

And if that's not disturbing enough, there also is a set of Currier and Ives prints that are grotesquely racist.

The exhibit is clearly designed to help people understand the stupidity and the destructiveness of prejudice. After walking among the displayed items, visitors come to a round open area on the walls of which are enlarged photographs of the items, hanging next to large writing pads on which visitors can write their reactions to what they've seen.

We enjoyed looking around the center's permanent exhibit areas, too. I loved seeing this Crosley automobile engineered by Powell Crosley, Jr.'s company in Cincinnati, more well known for its radios, refrigerators, and broadcast interests (starting with WLW) than its cars. I would love to have this little car or get the chance to ride in one! (You can read about the Crosleys here, the site of the Crosley Automobile Club, which has its annual gathering at the Fulton County Fairgrounds in Wauseon, in northwest Ohio.)

And, while there, we just had to see Conway, the mastodon. (He's hard to miss.) 

And Ann said she needed to get this pic of me on an old Columbus streetcar.

Fun! And educational. The two things aren't mutually exclusive, you know!

Here's more on what you can see at the History Center.

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