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History Lesson: Columbus Historical Society Unveils New Space at COSI and Continues Columbus’ Bicentennial Celebration

Doug Motz Doug Motz History Lesson: Columbus Historical Society Unveils New Space at COSI and Continues Columbus’ Bicentennial Celebration
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Happy Birthday Columbus! Tuesday February 14th is a day that we at the Columbus Historical Society have been looking forward to for years and we are so excited to open up the doors of our new home at COSI! This landmark day for the city of Columbus is a benchmark for CHS as well and I would like to detour from my usual essays about people, places, and events in Columbus’ amazing history and share a little about an organization that means a great deal to me – the Columbus Historical Society.

Founded in 1990 based on an idea of local historian Sandy Andromeda that Central High School could be used as a History Center, the Columbus Historical Society has come full circle. He probably doesn’t think of himself as a futurist, but his idea is coming to life.

Enriching the Central Ohio community through preserving and protecting its history, educating both residents and visitors, and leading diverse collaborative initiatives is the mission of your Columbus Historical Society.

We have worked to achieve that by presenting programming on the widest range of subjects possible –

• Streetcars in Columbus in partnership with MORPC

• Immigration in Columbus Past & Present in collaboration with Columbus Council on World Affairs

• The infamous murder of Theora Hix which was held at the James Jackson Police Academy where we had the actual Model A Ford where OSU Veterinary Professor and Olympic Gold Medalist Dr. James H Snook committed the drug-fueled, sexually charged act. And many other terrific programs of note.

The Model A Ford.

In 2008, we launched our first gallery opening at our former home in the Jefferson Center in partnership with the Lyle Gallery showcasing artworks of Columbus including well-known historic Columbus artists such as Alice Schille, Elijah Pierce and Ralph Fanning as well as contemporary Columbus artists Curtis Goldstein, Rebecca Taft and OSU Professor Chuck Csuri – often-called the father of computer-aided animation.

CHS' former home at 51 Jefferson Avenue, left. Painting of the Statehouse by Rebecca Taft, right.

In turn we have hosted exhibitions focused on the Sells Circus of Columbus, Magic in Columbus, Columbus in the age of Rock-and-Roll and our final exhibition at Jefferson entitled Summer in the City showcasing what residents of Columbus did during the Summer and where they actually “Summered” – in far off exotic locales such as Beechwold and the Northern Olentangy Riverside.

Many of you may have also enjoyed or perhaps need to join us on our on-going bus tours of Historic Columbus developed by our Executive Director Jeff Lafever and aided by Columbus Postcard expert and fellow board colleague Dick Barrett. During the tour, guests enjoy visiting: the site of the first NFL offices downtown and the Hotel where Fidel Castro hid out his mother and sister in 1959 while he was busy taking over Cuba.

Each year, we also host two events to celebrate Columbus’ history – the first which happened just a couple of days ago, is our Annual Birthday Party centered on the February 14th founding of our city, and during the Summer we host an annual themed gala.

Michael Wilkos, first Arch Award recipient.

Since 2010, we have teamed up with Columbus Underground to honor an individual who was doing great things to make Columbus better and presented the first ever “Arch Award” to a then little-known dynamo of Columbus dates and data named Michael Wilkos. This year, the nominees are Miguel Perez, Stev Guyer and Elizabeth Lessner. During our Grand Opening tonight, Walker Evans will award one of these three deserving nominees the 2012 “Arch Award.”

(By the way, Walker would never accept this award for himself, but I think that it should be noted that he has been nominated by the readership of CU every year for the past three years. He and Anne are two of the finest citizens of Columbus and it is my real pleasure to work with them monthly on this column – but I digress.)

Over the past few years, the Columbus Historical Society has worked to expand our reach in the community through various partnerships. One such partnership was with COSI. After successfully co-producing programs on the history of transportation in Columbus – they allowed us to exhibit some of their own collection of Lucas Sullivant artifacts at our 198th Birthday Party held at the historic Toledo & Ohio Railroad Station. Shortly after the party, COSI President & CEO David Chesebrough and Vice-President Dr. Kimberlee Kiehl began serious discussions with us to increase our partnership.

Cake cutting at the 198th Birthday Party.

After many conversations, we were proud to announce in December of 2011, that the Columbus Historical Society would move to a new home within COSI. Through this opportunity, we will showcase our historical exhibitions within COSI and have already relocated our archives and offices. This move will provide us an amazing opportunity to grow and educate all of our guests about the history of Columbus.

With that in mind, we would invite you to come and celebrate this next phase in our history!

Gallery Wall showcasing pre-Columbian Civil War artifacts.

Our exhibition space has tripled and for our first exhibition – the Bicentennial Exhibition – we will have on-hand pre-Columbian artifacts on loan from our partners at the Ohio Historical Society, items belonging to Franklinton Pioneer

Working Firestone Columbus automobile.

Lucas Sullivant, Civil War era documents signed by the first families of Columbus including the Deshlers, Goodales, Westwaters, and Sullivants asking President Lincoln to advance a local man to the rank of Captain which he did and signed the same document himself as well, and if that weren’t enough we will have on display a working Firestone Columbus automobile that was manufactured here in Columbus in 1910.

Our Exhibitions Chair Mike Frush and his team of volunteers have worked exceedingly hard on this and all of our exhibitions and he should be very proud of this work!

But that is only HALF of what we are doing inside our new home!

Through a partnership with the Goldberg Center for Teaching Excellence at the Ohio State University, Graduate students at OSU in the disciplines of Design, Computer Science and History have developed an interactive computer-aided “game” that uses motion capture technology to quiz children and families about Columbus History in a way that is educational, FUN and very engaging. This was the brainstorm of Dr. David Staley who leads the Goldberg Center and I am proud to count him as a board colleague as well.

A sample quiz question - do you know the answer?

To add an exclamation point to all of this, there will also be a video mural in the space featuring people and places of historic Columbus and WOSU Public Media has agreed to loan us two of their Neighborhood Documentaries – Franklinton/Downtown & King-Lincoln – which will run hourly on themed kiosks in our gallery.

A kiosk showing WOSU's Downtown Documentary.

The Columbus Historical Society will be open the same hours as COSI (view the hours here) and will remain free of charge. We have already partnered with WOSU and COSI on February the first for the premiere of the Franklinton/Downtown Documentary that was shown at COSI and look forward to working closely with them and their other site partners in the future. (WOSU was awarded the 2012 CHS Lucas Sullivant Gift Award at the 200Columbus Gala Friday night for this OUTSTANDING series!)

Our website is www.columbushistory.org and I would encourage you to visit us tonight, Tuesday February 14th from 7 – 9:30 or anytime after that.

So it would seem that Sandy Andromeda’s vision of turning Central High School into a Local History Center is coming true and it couldn’t happen on a more historic day.

Happy Birthday Columbus! We hope you like your new Columbus Historical Society!

Special Note: If you watch the WOSU Neighborhood Documentary on the founding of Franklinton, which will air this evening at 8:00, CHS founder Sandy Andromeda is the playing the role of Franklinton founder Lucas Sullivant in the re-enactments.

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