Project Comes To The Rescue of Ohio's Agricultural Literature

February 12, 2003

WOOSTER, Ohio — Unique and invaluable publications that convey the history of Ohio’s agriculture and rural life in their brittle pages will be saved from obliteration thanks to a preservation project led by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). The four-year endeavor will rescue monographs, periodicals, memoirs and other documents published in Ohio between 1820 and 1945. Some 215 titles will be microfilmed by 2006, said Connie Britton, head of the OARDC Library and project coordinator. “We have prepared an extensive bibliography that covers different aspects of agriculture, rural life and home economics,” Britton explained. “The list is not limited to scientific publications. It contains any document that would contribute to the history of Ohio’s agricultural life, such as information about country schools and cookbooks.” The Ohio project is part of a long-term effort, called the National Preservation Program for Agricultural Literature (NPPAL), whose aim is to keep historically significant agricultural books and documents in each of the 50 states from being lost to natural decay. NPPPAL was commissioned in 1993 by the United States Agriculture Information Network (USAIN) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Library (NAL). Preservation work began in 1996 in nine states under the supervision of Cornell University’s Albert R. Mann Library. “This country was an agrarian society at its roots, and this is a historical record,” said Mary Ochs, head of collection development and preservation at Mann Library and NPPAL national coordinator. “This allows historians and others to see the impact of agriculture on the social history of a region. It even goes beyond agriculture; it shows how people lived.” Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the program is divided in two-year phases. The 23rd participating state, Ohio is part of phase 4 (2002-2004), along with Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina. The OARDC Library and the library of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (FAES) received $36,438 last year from NEH for the first step of the project —compilation of the state’s most important and endangered agricultural literature. “A lot of the early Ohio publications were printed on highly acidic paper,” said Susan Logan, head of the FAES Library. “They are so brittle when you open them the pages crack up. We are very excited about the possibility to preserve some of these publications because we fear they will virtually disappear.” Britton, Logan and Doug Morrison, a reference and series librarian with Ohio State’s Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI), have drafted a list of about 4,000 publications after searching OSCAR (the OSU Libraries catalog), The Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK) and the Online Computer Library Center’s WorldCat engine. As in other states, a panel of scholars will evaluate and rank individual titles in order of importance to social, cultural and economic history. Selected publications will be microfilmed according to their relevance during NPPAL’s phase 5 (2004-2006), for which further funding from NEH is expected. Members of the panel are OARDC researchers Ben Stinner (Department of Entomology), Linda Lobao and Richard Moore (both from the Department of Human and Community Resource Development). They will be joined by Iowa State University historian Douglas Hurt, a national expert on agricultural and rural history. The microfilmed documents will be made available through OSU Libraries; a copy will be also sent to the NAL headquarters in Beltsville, Md. In the meantime, Britton said, the bibliography they compiled will be published online for research and reference. Thus far, NPPAL has salvaged some 8,705 titles in 15,310 volumes from 15 states. Phase 4 will finance the preservation of 770 additional titles from Michigan and North Carolina, which developed their bibliographies during the previous phase. A piece of Ohio history Trade manuals, farmers’ diaries, crop and dairy research reports, cookbooks, product information, and nutrition factsheets from the 19th and early 20th centuries represent more than the account of Ohio’s agricultural development —they are a vital contribution to the rich history of the Buckeye state. Many of the documents compiled for future preservation by the OARDC and FAES libraries offer a glimpse into the lives of those people who plowed Ohio from scratch and planted the seeds of its future development. Here are some examples: • Recollections of life in Ohio: From 1813-1840 (Cincinnati, 1895) is a delightful memoir written by newspaperman William Cooper Howells, father of renowned writer William Dean Howells. • A classic of Ohio horticulture and entrepreneurial spirit is Livingston and the Tomato (Columbus, 1893). The books contains descriptions and drawings of the varieties brought to life by A.W. Livingston, the Reynoldsburg tomato seedsman who was the best known developer of tomato varieties in the United States in the 19th century. • Annual reports and scientific publications from the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station (now OARDC) illustrate the development of agricultural research in Ohio and its contributions to the state’s economy since 1882. • A price list for agricultural equipment shows just how much a horse-drawn plow was worth in 1894. Another one, from 1900, offers the latest innovation for farmhouses —electric lights. • There was much buzzing in Medina, the center of beekeeping in Ohio, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Numerous books published by the pioneering A.I. Root Co. are a testimony to the industry’s pinnacle at the time. • The list also includes publications produced by OSU Extension since its creation in 1914; an Essay on the Family from 1859; a book about women’s struggles in the early 1900s, published by Oberlin University; and Agricultural Products for Crippled Children, a publication of the Ohio Division of Charities from the 1930s. For more information about the Ohio preservation project contact Connie Britton at (330) 263-3773 or britton.4@osu.edu. To learn more about NPPAL log on to http://neh-usain.mannlib.cornell.edu. OARDC, OSU Extension and ATI are part of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Author(s): 
Mauricio Espinoza
Source(s): 
Connie Britton