The Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center (SOMACC) has owned the well-known Carl Ackerman Collection since 1996.
According to the SOMACC website, “The Carl Ackerman Collection, with more than 10,000 historic local photographs, is an endless resource for thematic exhibitions in the Burton Room and other galleries. Cataloguing of the collection is ongoing, but more than 6,300 images have already been digitized for direct public access. For researchers of local history, museum staff may be able to locate additional images from the collection.”
In recent days, however, the museum has been working tirelessly with Museum Educator Emily Uldrich, Registrar Kaleb Burchett, AmeriCorps’ Wesley Vanderweg and more to create a new system of information recovery to add even more value to the overwhelming collection’s value.
“Wesley chose us as one of his public outreach components for his yearlong project here, which is hosted through the Shawnee State University (SSU) Center for Public History, and has been volunteering his time here to create a sustainable program,” Uldrich explained. “One of the things we really wanted help from the community to do was to get more information on some of the photographs in the Carl Ackerman Collection. We have such a wealth of history included with those photographs. While we do have a limited amount of information that was recorded on the back of the photographs and through basic research on them, we know there is more. We are sure that the community has more information to provide that could be added as context for that collection.”
The museum is working with the public to create new logs of information to support the images and the history they showcase.
“We are going to be working with community volunteers either remotely or at the museum,” Uldrich said. “We have a station at the museum where the digital portion of the collection is available and can look through photographs and add information.”
A lot of the graphics are already online, ready for people to submit information on.
“Kaleb Burchett has been working to put the Ackerman Collection online at archive.org,” Uldrich said. “So, we do have a limited number of photographs online who can work from home and help us farm information on these photographs.”
Uldrich said that she has massive respect for the collection and wants to grow the value by giving details to the historical context of each photo.
“It is an amazing record of Portsmouth history that dates back to the earliest cameras that goes through the 1900s. It is a treasure trove of documentation of Portsmouth and the greater region,” Uldrich explained. “Visually, there is just so much information. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and it is true, because there is so much information stored in these photographs that we have really yet to tap into, because we don’t know all of the locations and people in them. We are hoping to fill in the gaps and add to the information that is already there.”
Ackerman himself was a hero, who served his country and the area through his preservation efforts. Uldrich highlighted some of those efforts and the museum’s desire to see improved cataloging by saying, “Carl Ackerman was a photographer here in Portsmouth, as well as a photograph collector. He was born in 1917, he fought in World War II, he was actually a prisoner of war. When he returned from the war, he tried to spend his entire life to preserve the area’s photographic history. He actually had a photography studio and displayed his collection at the Washington House for a long time on Second Street. People were always used to having access to these photographs and area history. So, we are trying to continue his legacy of having public access to the collection while also preserving the physical photographs for as long as we can. Getting new information adds to the rich history and heritage that we have here in the region. It is great to be able to learn from history, appreciate our history and be able to take that into the future.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved