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|11-16-02: St. Marys library opens new local history room
|Books, various documents trace roots of the area
By JANIE SOUTHARD
The Daily Standard
ST. MARYS - Local history is not only a hot topic with many people, but
one with many and far reaching fingers - the battle at Fort Recovery, one of General
Anthony Wayne's line of forts, the Miami Erie Canal and the reservoir, the oil wells and
the pioneer settlements all have local significance.
All these events served to bring settlers to the area who established
their roots, which survive with countless ancestors who now spend time and energy
researching through history to discover those roots.
Last summer St. Marys Community Public Library joined the ranks of
Mercer County's main library in devoting an entire room to local history.
"We've always had many of the books and documents in this room,
but there was nowhere to display them. As well, the private collections donated to us have
been in boxes due to lack of space," said Susan Heckler Pittman, St. Marys library
Expansion and renovation of the library in St. Marys was completed last
spring and the new local history room was opened to the public in July.
Predominantly focused on events in St. Marys history, the books,
keepsakes, maps and various documents are significant to the entire area including the
time when St. Marys was part of Mercer County.
"We have a unique collection of photos in several large notebooks,
known as the Diamond Collection, which takes in schools, churches, banks, old businesses
on Spring Street, Front, High, South and Wayne streets as well as photos of the Miami and
Erie Canal, the oil wells, the flood and blizzards," Pittman said, adding the
collection was compiled by St. Marians George Neargarder and Larry Shelby.
Pittman said photos from the Diamond Collection are often in demand by
area newspapers and other publications.
Another special private collection donated recently to the library is
that of the late Ray Zunk, historian and Miami Erie Canal expert who gave many public
talks on area history.
Donated by Zunk's widow Helen, the collection also includes his
extensive quantity of items pertaining to area postal history especially in the small
towns along the canal, which have long since vanished.
"We hope to unveil the Zunk Collection in lots over the next year.
It's quite an undertaking as we'll make copies of everything, store the originals and
catalog each item," Pittman said.
Another item the St. Marys library boasts is the TeleSensory viewer,
donated by the estate of Leola Wissman.
Designed for the visually impaired, the machine magnifies almost any
book or document to a convenient size.
"We've had a lot of interest in this machine. In fact, a couple
people have come in, operated it and took information to purchase one of their own,"
Pittman said adding the magnifier is ideal for the small print of old documents and maps.
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