LANCASTER – If you ever wondered what life in Lancaster might have been like in the days after the Civil War, one new project at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio may give you a glimpse at history.
DACO was one of 14 organizations in Ohio to receive Ohio History Fund grants.
The grant is distributed by the Ohio History Connection. DACO will use the $7,735 for the Rising Family Digitization Project. The center received a collection of photos and documents from family members of the Rising, Reece and Peters families in the summer of 2020. The project will focus on digitizing parts of the collection for online accessibility.
Jason Crabill, DACO executive director, explained the center is grateful to get “a piece of Lancaster’s history,” but the center isn’t designed to store or display the documents.
“We received 75 boxes of materials, there’s so much information. We’re not a collecting institution, a place where researchers might come and check items out for their work. And we don’t have space to store all this stuff right now,” he said. “We had the opportunity to digitize some of the collection, so we could share it with everyone.”
“It was processed in the 1990s by the Ohio History Connection, so it’s organized, but there’s just so much here to go through. The materials really let you see what life was like for some of the areas’ influential families.”
The collection belonged to Caroline Rockwood, a Lancaster native, whose ancestors had owned the house where DACO resides. She passed away in 2020, months shy of her 100th birthday. Her daughter, Dodie Mitchell, said she had discovered the collection in her mother’s basement. She added the collection is better described as the Peters-Whiley collection, because although that is the Reese-Peters Home, “it’s not their papers.”
“We’re thrilled the arts center agreed to take the collection. There’s just so much information, and a real historical connection to Lancaster,” she said. “The fun parts of history, when you aren’t trying to memorize the dates, is all about stories. This collection provides a broad snapshot of what life was like, from the 1800s to about 1990.”
“My family was a family that saved everything. They’d pass down the information and things they’d treasured, and that’s what’s included in the collection. DACO is going to help ensure it lives on.”
Mitchell said she never had the chance to look through everything in the collection, but she is aware of some of the materials in it. She said the materials collected help show what life was like in Lancaster throughout the years.
“That’s why I’m so excited to see the things digitized, so I can read them, and so everyone in town can see what was happening. The materials show what used to be, what came before all the change that happens,” Mitchell said. “Knowing the background of the community is valuable.”
During an interview, Crabill described what could be found in the collection. One box held a collection of receipts, bills of sales and contracts. One receipt was for 6,600 feet of telephone cable, to be installed to the house. The annual phone bill was $60.
“That receipt is an example of something that was once a novelty. Having a phone was incredible, people then probably would have reacted to a phone like how people reacted to the moon landing,” Mitchell said. “But seeing how people treated novelties helps us see how we treat novelties now. We’ve been there before, we just need to see how it develops.”
“This collection will become part of the whole DACO package, and will become part of the richness DACO provides the community.”
Crabill said the first grant will be used to start the digitization process, but it won’t be enough to get the entire collection online.
“We’re going to have to go through and decide what would be best to put on there. This is a good way to decide what we think needs to go online first, and how we might apply for funding in the future,” he said. “We’d love to have everything on there, but it will take time and money.”
Crabill added the center will receive the grant funds later this year, and the digitized materials should be available by next summer.