PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Our Digital Shoebox Project has grown to contain over 36,000 pages of local history materials digitized and online for public use. A cooperative project of 10 libraries, the Shoebox was named because of the common practice of placing historical tid-bits in a shoebox for storage. Our contribution has been the digitized pages of items of local history.
The Shoebox is powered by ContentDM software, which allows the actual text of the items to be searched with keyword capability, whether or not the items have an index. The most recent addition to the Shoebox is over 5,000 pages of "loose materials" from our local history collection.
Librarians call it the "vertical file" because the items are usually contained in a file cabinet due to their format. Newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and assorted sheets of information are common in vertical files.
The problem is access, how do you find specific information in this "mess" of data? The Shoebox has accomplished that task, and added searching capability. We took the file and divided it into general subject areas, such as education, communities, coal industry, as well as specific people like Edwin M. Stanton and Baron von Steuben. We then produced files that contained these headings, and added the information to the Shoebox.
One of the areas that I found interesting was the file on Ohio. For instance, the library is often asked about the origin of the term "buckeye" as used as a nickname for Ohio and Ohioans. Three bits of information contain the history of the word, "buckeye."
The assumption is that the buckeye tree is native to only Ohio, but it also exists in Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia. Early settlers to the Ohio country found it growing in abundance, and due to the dyes that could be made from its fruit; the settlers prized it. The name comes from the Native American word "hetuck," meaning the eye of the buck, and its resemblance in color and shape of the eye of a deer.Ohio historian, S.P. Hildreth in his pioneer history, reviewed the first recorded use of "buckeye".
On September 2, 1788, the first court in the Northwest Territory was held at Marietta with a procession by community members to Campus Martius. Native Americans witnessing the ceremony were impressed with the procession, and used the term "hetuck" to describe the High Sheriff, which meant "big buckeye."
In 1840, with Ohioan William Henry Harrison as a Presidential candidate, the "buckeye" was applied to his log cabin campaign. Shortly, Harrison supporters carried walking sticks made from buckeye branches and the term was then common for Ohioans.
In 1847, Dr. Daniel Drake delivered a speech in Cincinnati discussing the buckeye tree, the speech and information repeated in newspapers around the state.
That cemented the nickname "buckeyes" with the State of Ohio.
Our Ohio file also contains the history of the state flag and the state seal. The song Beautiful Ohio, By the Old Ohio shore, and My Ohio home are within that information.
Many 1953 Ohio Sesquicentennial publications have been digitized for the future, as well as biographies of Presidents from Ohio.The Digital Shoebox can be found on the library website at