Ohio Memory Behind the Scenes: Choosing a Blog Post Topic

A woman demonstrates a different sort of selection process while shopping for produce at Cleveland’s Central Market, 1940. Via Ohio Memory.

In celebration of Ohio Memory’s 20th anniversary, we’ll be sharing some information in the coming weeks and months about how Ohio Memory works behind the scenes. To kick things off, this week we’ll look at how we choose our blog post topics.

Elminie Rickman hands diplomas to two kindergarten graduates, ca. 1953-1969. Via Ohio Memory.

Ohio has a rich history, and Ohio’s libraries and cultural heritage institutions have amazing (and sometimes surprising) items in their collections. Sometimes choosing the topic for a blog post is easy, but other times it can be difficult to decide what to focus on. Here are some of the things we think about when selecting a blog post topic:

Are there special events coming up—such as holidays or anniversaries of historic events—and how do they connect to Ohio?

Over the past several years we’ve highlighted historic events both happy and difficult, from the anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie to the sesquicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s death, and from the centennials of the end of World War I, the passage of the 19th Amendment, and the start of Prohibition to the 40th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978. Whenever possible, we feature local stories that are part of these statewide, national, and international events. Holidays and other annual events, such as Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and graduation, also give us a chance to highlight more personal moments in history.

Can we make a connection to current events?

The idea that history repeats itself certainly has some truth, and sharing items from our historical collections that tie to current events is a great way to connect the past and present. We shared blog posts about past solar eclipses in conjunction with the 2017 total solar eclipse and featured historical political campaign songs during the 2018 midterm elections. When the remains of explorer Matthew Flinders (the first European to circumnavigate Australia) were discovered in London last year, we shared images from the State Library’s copy of his book A Voyage to Terra Australis.

Plate 11 from Papillons, via the State Library of Ohio Rare Books Collection on Ohio Memory.

Is there a well-known (or not-so-well-known) Ohioan we’d like to highlight?

Many Ohio residents are familiar with famous fellow Buckeyes including Bob Hope, Lillian Gish, John Glenn, George Armstrong Custer, and more—and we’ve written blog posts about them. But we also like to feature lesser-known Ohioans who have made important contributions to society, such as entrepreneur C. W. Bryant Jr. (a self-taught engineer and owner of multiple businesses, including the largest construction company in Columbus) and John Wesley Powell (leader of the first expedition to successfully navigate the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River and a founding member of the National Geographic Society).

Is there a new or interesting collection item we’d like to feature?

Some blog posts are designed to make readers aware of newly digitized newspaper or archival collections, such as foreign language newspapers, Ohio guest registers from the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exposition, or the papers of early Ohio abolitionist Benjamin Lundy here and here. Other posts feature rare, unusual, or just plain fun items, such as a set of intricately hand-stenciled butterflies from a Parisian publisher, autograph books, a civil defense comic book featuring comics icon Li’l Abner, or a post about a few of our favorite things.

Trifolium repens (white clover) from American Medicinal Plants by Charles F. Millspaugh.

Are the items we want to feature or the images we want to use in the public domain?

We’ve briefly discussed copyright in our Public Domain Day posts here and here. Although we sometimes use items or images that are still in copyright (either with permission or via limited uses allowed by U.S. copyright law), we prefer to use images that are no longer protected by copyright. Stay tuned for a blog post about how copyright law applies to newspapers coming in July.

Are the items easy or difficult to digitize?

Finally, we consider the digitization of any items we want to feature which are not already a part of the digital collection. When digitizing, we prefer to scan the “whole” item—for example, an entire book instead of selected pages, or the entire run of a series of annual reports. Because of the time involved in scanning, we’re more likely to choose a smaller, single work for a blog post than something that’s part of a long series. And, unfortunately, some items are just too fragile to scan. We’ll have a blog post this summer that will explain more about the scanning process.

Although we consider all these factors, they are not hard and fast rules. Ultimately, we choose topics that we’re excited to write about and that we think you’ll enjoy reading. So, in celebration of the recent St. Patrick’s Day holiday, we’re sharing this shamrock image from the State Library of Ohio Rare Books collection. Sláinte!

Thank you to Stephanie Michaels, Research and Catalog Services Librarian at theState Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!

Ohio Memory is celebrating 20 years! Visit our blog all year long to learn more about our program, partners and collections.

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