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11-16-02: St. Marys library opens new local history room
Books, various documents trace roots of the area

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 director.
    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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