TWINSBURG — Increasing young people’s interest in local history has been a goal of Twinsburg Historical Society for quite a while, and now the society has turned to some college students for help with various projects.
"With Kent State University having a presence in Twinsburg, we hooked up with an Ohio history class at the Stark campus, where professor Leslie Heaphy was excited to partner with us," said society president Andy Tomko.
Tomko was seeking students to help with some upgrades at the society-owned Riley house, but Heaphy thought the students could do more to help the society and the community.
"We’re excited about doing this," she said. "Individual students have worked on historical projects before, but this is the first time one of my entire classes has done it, so it will be a great learning opportunity for us."
Said Tomko: "We came up with about 20 projects that the students could focus on, and they chose a handful after hearing my presentation in January about Twinsburg history and some of the things the society would like to accomplish."
"They initially will work on about one-third of the projects we proposed, which means this partnership will continue as Heaphy’s classes tackle more of the projects on our list. I’m ecstatic about this partnership."
One major project will ask two students to compile information needed to get the society’s recently acquired Moses Roach house on the Township Square on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce calls the home its headquarters.
"They must find out as much history as possible about the house, list past owners and provide info about its architectural style, repairs made and include photos," Tomko said. "The application could be 100 pages long."
Tomko said the process may take six months. The National Park Service determines which structures get on the registry.
"It is not a quick and easy process," he said. Heaphy added most of the work should be done by the end of the spring semester.
Another project is compiling a biography of Dr. Seth Freeman, who owned what is now the society’s Freeman Barn on Darrow Road. The barn was built in 1870, and Freeman’s house once stood on the current Mr. Chicken site.
"We don’t know much about Dr. Freeman," said Tomko. "We do know he was a physician and undertaker, and kept horses in the barn, which the historical society acquired in the late 1960s."
Also on the list of projects is cataloguing the society’s collection of 25 family Bibles, the oldest dating to 1799.
"The students will digitize them and do genealogy on some of the families who owned them," Tomko said.
Still another project will focus on the Underground Railroad in Twinsburg.
"A few years ago a student did a graduate project about that, but couldn’t find concrete proof the railroad came through here," Tomko said.
Because Tomko said the society doesn’t want its exhibits to become stagnant, he said some of the students will focus on changing displays in the museum and barn.
"We want to keep them fresh," he said.
The society has a lot of items which never have been displayed, and students will help set up new exhibits. Among the items recently donated are survey maps and equipment from the early 1800s.
Tomko said the society also eventually wants to set up some displays in the Roach house, so visitors to the Chamber offices can admire them.
Heaphy will head up the organization of a junior docent program, where middle school and high school youths will learn about Twinsburg history so they can help at society open houses and conduct tours of its properties.
"Some students may help when we host about 120 people in April for the Northeast Ohio Museums Association banquet and tour," Tomko said. "It’s another way of getting youngsters involved with local history."
"We need the next generation to get interested in history, and a junior docent program is a way to accomplish that," said Heaphy. "The concept has been very successful at several historical societies and museums."
Heaphy said one student will do research on emblems which were found on sections of Twinsburg’s Old School facade, which were given to the historical society when the building was razed last year.
Another KSU Stark professor — Dr. Haithem Zourrig — is working to create a phone app featuring a virtual reality tour of the local museum, barn and other society properties.
Since Tomko visited the KSU class in January, some of the students have met with him at the society’s museum and barn. "They are really excited to take on these projects," he said.
At the end of the spring semester, Tomko said the KSU class will speak to society members about how their projects panned out.
"We’ll benefit greatly from their knowledge and research," he said. "The fact is our town’s name is unique; there isn’t another one."
In addition to the KSU class and local schools, the society is partnering with Twinsburg Public Library to archive and digitize documents.
"We’ve applied for a grant, and we have a lot planned with the library," Tomko said.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.