Shawnee State University to host grand opening of Center for Public History

Shawnee State University will host a grand opening of its new Center for Public History (CPH) on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 4:00 p.m. Located in the Clark Memorial Library on campus, the CPH has a mission to advance the academic field of public history while providing SSU students with hands-on experience working on real world projects and helping preserve the Portsmouth area’s history for generations to come.

“The opening of the Center for Public History marks a major milestone for Shawnee State University’s initiatives in the area of digital technologies and community-engaged scholarship,” CPH Director and Professor of History at SSU, Dr. Andrew Feight said. “Through the Center’s initiatives and community partnerships, SSU students will have the opportunity to use the latest technologies and methods in support of local historic preservation efforts.”

Focusing on key public history initiatives to preserve and promote local history and cultural heritage tourism, CPH has already served the public through the beginnings of its documenting the Historic Portsmouth Newspaper Digitization Project, the Ohio Speaker Vern Riffe Collection Project, the Scioto Historical mobile app and website project, and the Ohio History Service Corps (AmeriCorps) program.

“I am delighted at the establishment of the Center for Public History at Shawnee State University and pleased to have supported its creation,” said SSU Provost and Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs, Dr. Sunil Ahuja. “I am equally thrilled that Dr. Andrew Feight is leading the work of the Center. With his tireless efforts and knowledge of this field, even in its infancy, the Center has taken on significant projects of importance to the community.”

The largest and most significant CPH initiative at the moment involves the digitization of over 180 years of Portsmouth newspapers, including over twenty different titles, dating back to the 1820s and up to the early 2000s. As the digitization project moves forward with a pilot project set for Spring 2023, the public, along with faculty and students, will be able to complete research with the original, print copy editions. As a result of a generous donation by Dr. George and Sandy White, the CPH newspaper collection is now inventoried and shelved in its archives.

“Public history differs from traditional academic history by being focused on a non-academic audience – the general public,” said Dr. Feight. “Rather than producing costly or hard-to-access journal articles and books, which reach only a handful of specialists, public history engages much larger audiences outside of the classroom and library.”

The work of the CPH will join other public history initiatives found within Portsmouth including the new Scioto County Heritage Museum, the city’s floodwall murals, and the historic 1810 House. Dr. Feight is looking forward to welcoming the public to use the CPH to further their interest and knowledge of the region’s history.

“The future of the past is digital, mobile, and public,” said Dr. Feight. “The new center will facilitate undergraduate research projects, internships, and public programming on campus and in the community.”

The community is invited to attend the Center for Public History’s grand opening. The event will take place in the Clark Memorial Library on Wednesday, Nov. 30 beginning at 4:00 p.m. For more information on the Center for Public History at Shawnee State University, visit our website at www.shawnee.edu/center-public-history.