The Ohio Story scripts were donated by the author’s son, Jonathan Seidel, Cleveland, Ohio, on 12 Aug 1996. The original finding aid, developed by librarian Elizabeth Glasgow, said: "Collection contains the original scripts of the radio show, The Ohio Story, which aired in Cleveland during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Collection includes 2 stapled indexes to scripts running (by location) through Ada to Mesopotamia, Ohio, and 23 spiral-bound collections of scripts. Two sheets of biographical material about the author Frank Seidel are also included. The scripts read as such, complete with orchestra prompts, commercial breaks, etc. Not all scripts in the index were included in the donation."
In 2014, librarian Tom Neel applied for funding to digitize The Ohio Story holdings and was successful in receiving a $2000 Ohio Archives Grant to be matched by the Ohio Genealogical Society. The Ohio Archives Grants are funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), an arm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) through their State and National Archival Partnership (SNAP) Grants program. The funded projects include organizing and preserving historical records and cataloging and digitizing records for improved access. Neel titled the project – “Digitization of The Ohio Story Script – Bringing Old Radio Back to Life.”
Developed by Strongsville native and historian Frank Siedel, the shows aired three times per week from 1947 to 1967 in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Youngstown, and Zanesville. The sponsor was the Ohio Bell Telephone Company and the narrator was initially Robert Waldrop, and later, Nelson Olmsted (1914-1982). These were short pieces about Ohio communities, events, and personalities, generally ten minutes in length, and were used to fill air time after a 20-minute news block. They were conversational history, bringing in current events and a lot of humor. Examples include episodes on the “Ohio Soap Box Derby” airing 16 Aug 1947, “Jed Smith and the Far Ranges 16 May 1949,” and “The Little Brown Jug” 23 Sep 1953. Later scripts were also written by William Ellis, known for his Rivers of America series. A television version was initiated in June 1952. Stuart Buchanan was the director throughout. Both Tom Field and Robert Waldrop served as announcers.
The action plan:
- We will secure an intern
- That person will review the entire collection to get a feel for content.
- A finding aid will be developed.
- Successor to Ohio Bell Telephone Company will be approached for their support and any information that they might have in their corporate records.
- The library director and/or past interns will provide training on scanning equipment.
- File naming structure will be developed because of the number of scripts.
- Intern will scan material, crop, straighten, OCR, optimize for web.
- Short titles will be developed with a paragraph of metadata about each story to include all important Ohio names, places, and events.
- Research will be done on the credited author, Frank Seidel./li>
- Intern will determine if copyright allows us to scan or link to some of his Ohio history works, specifically, The Ohio Story (1950) and Out of the Midwest, More Chapters in the Ohio Story (1952).
- Intern will determine if we can link to at least one Ohio Story television episode (on Toledo) that currently appears online.
- Intern will turn files over to our Publications Committee for coding and to our webmaster for placement on the free public section of the OGS web site. Open source content management software may be utilized by our intern.
- Library Director with intern will study ways to publicize project and compile and distribute promotional material.
- Mid-term and final reporting will be compiled and submitted pursuant to grant guidelines.
- Demonstration will be made to our OGS Board of Trustees.
- Explore possibility of locating later radio/television scripts and adding these or partnering with such institutions that own them.
Eventually three interns led the project to completion.
Aaron Turner had been a work-study student at the Ohio Genealogical Society through Kent State University’s School of Library Science. He had processed several manuscript collections, developed the Ohio Photograph Collection in our archive, and had greatly expanded the library’s high school and college yearbook collection. Aaron had also digitized some Ohio books for the OGS Digital Library available to members. Aaron initiated The Ohio Story Scripts project and stayed on to train new interns after he had received his MLIS degree and took other employment in the online antique sales business.
Deborah Phillips, a school librarian who was in between jobs, also assisted with the scanning project. She had been a volunteer cataloger for OGS for several years during her school vacation breaks. Deb also had scanned several books for the OGS Digital Library. She is now working in the Columbus area.
Nancy Strayer, who had worked in the environmental industry, eventually took on the project and completed scanning and entry. She also had an MLS degree in her resume and found library employment soon after she started with us. Luckily it was here in Bellville and was part-time, so she was able to stay on and complete project work in her “extra” time. Nancy had previously scanned most of our OGS periodical back issues for us as a volunteer project.
Tom Neel of New London, Library Director at the Ohio Genealogical Society, was involved with The Ohio Story Scripts project throughout, and Carla Cegielski of Perry, the OGS webmaster, set up a web site for us.
We set up a separate organizational website – www.ogsarchive.org – since it was imperative that this material always be on the public side and open to all users. We downloaded Omeka for our content management software along with its plugins, Exhibit Builder and SimplePages. Although it didn’t permit mass entry of metadata and had other annoying features, the big plus here was that Omeka didn’t cost us anything. We may use it for other collections or we may select something else in the future. We started scanning on an Epson GT 20000 but we found that it took time and file sizes were much larger than we could handle. We switched to a BizHub C284e photocopier made by Konica Minolta. Scans were made at 600 dpi and sent to our digitization lab computer as PDF files. Adobe Creative Suite software (mostly Adobe Acrobat Pro) was then used to manipulate the images. We kept an archival copy but then cropped images, ran them through OCR software to make them searchable, and then optimized them for the web, making the files sizes much easier to handle on the site. Each episode was placed on the site as a separate entity. Since we had not done this before, we looked at another Omeka site, www.trumbullmemory.org, suggested by our former librarian Elizabeth Glasgow, Warren-Trumbull County Public Library. We also sought technical advice from Janet Carleton, Digital Initiatives Coordinator at Ohio University Libraries, and Marcus Ladd, Special Collections Digital Librarian at Miami University.
The OGS collection of scripts is incomplete. We discovered that the Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland) has a partial collection and the Columbus Metropolitan Library and the Ohio History Connection (Columbus) have complete copies, but hardbound. CML has offered to use their new book scanner to retrieve the episodes that we are missing. Russ Pollitt and Angela O’Neal from CML are assisting with this. Jon Seidel, son of the author, provided input. Both Ohio Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T Ohio – Ameritech Technologies Corp.) and WTAM 1100 Radio (Cleveland) were contacted but current employees didn’t know about the show or any possible corporate holdings.
In an age of Facebook and Twitter, these ten-minute human interest pieces are very similar to the way that the public receives news today. Nothing has changed in how we accumulate our knowledge of trivia. Students and historians will be able to search the metadata of The Ohio Story Scripts to learn about what the 1940s and 1950s audience thought was important in Ohio history. And these written sound-bites may be viewed from the user’s home computer 24/7. We want to publicly thank the Ohio Records Advisory Board and its Ohio Archives Grant program for allowing us to preserve this aspect of Ohio history. This will bring a new set of users to our web site who will learn something and be more supportive of Ohio history in the future.