Historical society receives state award for oral history project
WARREN — The Trumbull County Historical Society has been recognized by the Ohio Museums Association with an award for the Voices Oral History Project for best Education and Outreach program in the state for 2020.
Meghan Reed, director of the Trumbull County Historical Society, said the Voices Oral History Project is an initiative started by the society to preserve the memories of elders in Warren’s black community.
Working with a steering committee comprised of local black leaders, members conducted 18 interviews with residents at least 70 years old who shared what it was like to live and work in Trumbull County.
Interviews are housed on the Voices Oral History Project’s website (www.voicesoftc.org), allowing TCHS to diversify the stories.
“I was so honored to be a part of this project. That the pandemic forced the postponement of several of my interviews is ironic.With the loss of so many, especially in minority communities, parts of our collective histories are being buried along with them. It underscores the need to record and preserve the threads of lifestories lived by our elders before they are lost,” Stacey Adger, steering committee member and interviewer, said.
The Voices educational packets are now available for educators, with each packet focusing on a nationally significant issue, such as redlining, the Civil Rights Movement and northern segregation, among others. They include primary and secondary sources, activities and Voices interviews that show the local impact of these national events.
“We are thrilled that Voices is getting this kind of statewide recognition,” Sarah Moell, curator of collections and research, said.
“I have been involved with this project since 2019 and have enjoyed listening to and learning from our steering committee and interviewees. It has been a wonderful experience, and I am looking forward to expanding Voices even further,” Moell said.
Reed said the project began in 2017 when the historical society made the move to ensure it was representing the entire community. The society realized its collections, archives and programs were telling the history of a wealthy elite that was not relatable to many residents.
“Nonprofits like TCHS are tax exempt because we provide services to the community — the whole community. In 2017, we only held 10 items in our collection that represented the black community. With a black population of roughly 30 percent in Warren, that was unacceptable.” Reed had said.
The project was made possible through a grant from The Raymond John Wean Foundation’s community investment program, which allowed the historical society to create a steering committee comprised of black residents and to hire an education and outreach manager.
The steering committee conducted 17 interviews out of a list of 45 people before COVID-19 halted the process in March 2020. The interviews touch on a wide range of topics, including memories of family life, moving to Warren from the South and racism seen by local law enforcement.
Interviewees include those who worked in Warren’s steel mills when they were segregated, successful sports stars and civil rights activists.
Before kicking off the project, the historical society reached out to residents and attended meetings and community events to gauge the desire for the project, and found a desire to show the larger community how racism affected the community in the past and continues to have consequences today.
“There are so many life stories that have been silenced over the years. Each ancestor who passes away takes their unique story with them — their experiences, perceptions, beliefs. I usually say we have lost a tree because their knowledge and the things that shaped their life are no more,” Adger has said.
For information, call the society at 330-394-4653, email info@trumbull countyhistory.org or visit the website at www.trumbullcountyhistory.com.