You’ve probably seen them on any road trip in the Buckeye State: brown aluminum signs with gold lettering detailing the story behind historical landmarks. Over 1,750 of these Ohio Historical Markers can be found around the state, with 20-30 new ones added each year. One of the people behind the markers is Andy Verhoff, team lead for local history at the Ohio History Connection. After a select group of applications are chosen to become Ohio Historical Markers,Verhoff and a group of volunteers verify the facts for each marker text. This involves hours of research – which could take even longer if it weren’t for OhioLINK.
“We work very closely with the applicants of markers to fact check and finalize text, edit, to make sure we get it just right,” Verhoff said. “That involves a lot of research, and that's where OhioLINK comes in really handy.”
To place an Ohio Historical Marker, a local sponsor, typically a historical society, civic organization or local government body, submits an application to the Ohio History Connection through Local History Services. The application includes questions on why the person, place, thing or event is historically significant to Ohio, along with relevant sources to back up support what the applicant want to say on the marker. Applicants are also responsible for the cost of the marker, obtaining the property owner’s permission and continued upkeep of the marker.
While Verhoff does have access to an impressive historical library and archive of books, documents, newspapers and research guides at the Ohio History Connection, he isn’t always the first to get his hands on the resources he needs.
“If we don't have an item here, it's great to be able to go on OhioLINK order it – and this usually has to do with books we may not have in our library, or that somebody else is using,” Verhoff said. “Of course in our library, our users get dibs before staff. So I use OhioLINK to order to order books mainly for marker research.”
Verhoff often has books sent to the State Library of Ohio just a few blocks away where he easily picks them up within a few days of ordering. In fact, you don’t have to be a marker writer to do this – any citizen of Ohio who has a library card through the State Library of Ohio can use OhioLINK to access books, online resources and research papers throughout the state.
“Not everyone can drive to Bowling Green or Toledo or to Athens to get a book - order through OhioLINK,” Verhoff said. “I've found it's a pretty easy service to use: I go to the website, I find the book, I order it, I have it sent to the State Library. In the times I've used it I'd had books within a week.”
Out of 64 applications in 2018, the Ohio History Connection approved 28 to go up within the next year. But don’t ask Verhoff which marker is his favorite.
“Oh boy… that changes daily,” Verhoff said. “I have more than 1,700 to choose from.”