Alden Library’s first exhibit and Authors@Alden event of the academic year will tell the story of the diversity of Ohioans during the Civil War—including parts played by Ohio University students.
The exhibit, “Civil War Stories: Everyday Lives in an Extraordinary Era,” will highlight the Libraries’ Civil War collections—comprised largely of letters and rare books, said Stacey Lavender, a special collections librarian who works specifically to curate the manuscript collections.
She added the exhibit of more than 100 pieces opens on Alden Library’s fifth floor Monday, Sept. 18, with an interactive Authors@Alden event planned for the following afternoon, Sept. 19. The event, titled “Launching a Civil War Digital Archive,” will take place on the fourth-floor lounge at 2 p.m.
“There can be this idea with history that it is maybe a little bit dry,” Lavender said. “But Karmen and I were both engrossed when we were dealing with these letters, and we are hoping to pass on that to the people who attend the exhibit and event—how interesting and alive these materials feel even though they are so old.”
Both the exhibit—on display through the end of the semester—and the event serve to raise awareness for a newly launched digital archive of Civil War material held by the Libraries, said Karmen Beecroft, digital projects librarian who assembled the archive from material selected by Lavender.
“For us to get people to go to the digital archive, we need to tell people about it,” she said. “So getting people physically in the Library to interact with the originals [and] to do some fun stuff… is part of the emphasis of digital projects here at Alden. We want to make the launch event fun—make it as much of a living history experience as possible.”
Lavender and Beecroft will begin the Authors@Alden event at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19 with a brief discussion of the composition of the collections—letters, artifacts and books— which mostly originate from Ohio. Following that, students and faculty will dramatize selections of the letters. The approximately two-hour event will conclude with a letter-writing activity, where attendees will be invited to use Civil War-era stationary, fountain pens and sealing wax to draft their own letters, Lavender said.
Along with engaging the audience with Ohio’s rich, diverse history, the event and exhibit serve as an introduction to the importance of the Libraries’ Special Collections, said both Lavender and Beecroft.
“If you are a student, as early on in your career as possible, you should familiarize yourself with library archives and primary source materials,” said Lavender, adding many of the Civil War letters come from college-aged soldiers. “…all students are going to have to do some kind of research and have some kind of awareness of what primary source materials are and how to use them. This would be a great place for them to do that.”
To help accomplish that, Beecroft and Lavender said they plan to promote the event on various social media accounts, including Facebook Live and Instagram Live videos.
“In the exhibit especially, we are emphasizing the plurality of voices of the historical record,” Beecroft said. “We need to continuously interrogate our collective memory of the past. That’s part of being a student and a scholar.”
The 2 p.m. event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
All images courtesy of Ohio University Libraries