Already home to Northeast Ohio items, documents and artifacts, the Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society unveils its newest permanent collection Cleveland Starts Here Wed 11/29 at its University Circle venue.
Located inside the Cleveland History Center’s main entrance, the 3,500-square-foot exhibit explores the social, creative, economic, political and cultural history of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio using the latest technology. CoolCleveland talked to Cleveland History Center director Angie Lowrie about Cleveland Starts Here.
CoolCleveland: Cleveland Starts Here appears to be something unlike any other exhibit. What’s the concept?
Angie Lowrie: This is our 150th anniversary year, and we see this as our gift back to the community where they can come and get a sense of place and pride. It’s a permanent exhibit that tells the history of Cleveland. There’s no one place in this city where you can go and see what Cleveland is all about. It gives a chance for residents and businesses to understand our city. It’s unlike anything we’ve done before. It’s highly interactive, and it has digital component, interactive component. It’s hands-on. It stretches from the 1790s through today. We’re telling the story of Cleveland’s history with over 800 objects and images in this exhibit. We haven’t had a core exhibit that tells the story of our region in a comprehensive way so this is something we’ve been working on for the last three years. There’s so much history here in Cleveland, and we’re doing it in a variety of ways. People can explore that history through a film, touchscreens and a number of objects.
CC: What will exhibitgoers experience?
AL: The objects themselves are interesting and fun, but they also have stories that come alive as people experience it. Stories of innovation, inertia, immigration, community. Everyone should be able to find themselves in this exhibit through the experience. There are things like the early survey tools that Moses Cleveland used and the first map of Cleveland, all the way to things that speak to immigration. We have the Alsbacher document written for Jewish immigrants coming to Cleveland on how to settle into this new world but still maintain their traditions and religion. We have a lunar descent engine with parts made by Cleveland’s TRW. We have shoes LeBron James wore during the Cavaliers championship season. We have the practice podium from the RNC. We have a rally towel from the World Series.
CC: Can you talk about the interactive component associated with Cleveland Starts Here?
AL: There’s an interactive map where people can explore how the landscape of the city has changed over time. We pulled six different maps from our archives and they’re on these high-definition touchscreens. They can put a personal pin on where their home is and see how that landscape has changed from 1750s through 2000. The other interactive encourages people to begin their personal exploration of family histories and genealogies. The third we have over 150 different items that people can explore through a touchscreen. They can create a gallery and choose four objects from the digital collection that can scan over to create their own four-item exhibit. Once they complete that gallery and its description, it posts to our social media page. They can then share that.
CC: When visitor finish the Cleveland Starts Here experience, what do you hope people take away?
AL: The takeaway is that Cleveland’s people in our story goes beyond the common things that people say about Cleveland — the river burned, the city went into default, the Cavs won the championship. There’s so much more to Cleveland than that. It’s made up of a diverse community of people, and it has a diverse story. There are many Clevelands, and they can find their Cleveland here.