Burger posters, natural history, civil rights relics and more

The Ohio History Center isn’t a hidden gem. The museum’s distinctive, Brutalist design is hard to miss (and difficult to love), and its most famous artifacts (the Conway Mastodon, the Adena Pipe and the two-headed cow) are cultural touchstones. But what’s less appreciated is the size and scope of the holdings overseen by the Ohio History Connection, the nonprofit that owns the museum and more than 50 other historic sites in the state. The History Connection’s massive archives include photographs, diaries, manuscripts, government and corporate records, natural history specimens, textiles, quilts, battle flags and ancient Native American relics—about 1.8 million artifacts in total. The History Center and its other sites have room to display just a small fraction of these objects, so most end up in a Columbus storage facility with poor humidity and temperature control and no public access.

In three to four years, however, OHC leaders hope to raise enough money to pay for an addition to the East 17th Avenue museum that would provide a safer storage option and give the public the chance to inspect even stored artifacts on request (under the close supervision of History Connection staffers, of course). To highlight this effort, OHC officials shared with Columbus Monthly some of their buried treasures. “These items really belong to Ohioans,” says OHC executive director Burt Logan. “We’re legally responsible for their safekeeping, but we don’t own the stories. We don’t own the meaning. We don’t own what they really represent. And that’s why it’s so important that we open this up to Ohioans and give them that opportunity to come in and explore the collection.”