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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Digital Shoebox

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 13, 2018


Today, the resources of a public library contain information not contained in the traditional book-on-the-shelf. 


Our library system has just upgraded with new software the Digital Shoebox Project.  Easier use and improved access are both features of the upgrade.


The Digital Shoebox was established in 2003 as a cooperative of 10 libraries in SE Ohio to digitize historic materials to make them available online.


The regional library system had originally funded and developed Digital Shoebox closed in 2006, and ownership was transferred to the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County as we had the largest amount of items in the database.


Since then, 3 libraries left the project and their items were deleted, but the remaining 7 libraries have added new items and we have upgraded the software several times.


Now, the Shoebox contains over 2,000 images and photos of local items, and over 90,000 pages of historic and local history items for preservation to share with everyone.


The database has moved from a local server to a computer system in Columbus to better maintain the system and allow upgrades to be performed to the system.


Go to and select our library system, either the books or the images database.


The “images” section has changed the most and you can either browse or search by the subject of the image.


I spent a couple hours browsing the images and found items from Steubenville, Wintersville, Mingo Junction, Bergholz, Bloomingdale, Dillonvale, Toronto, Amsterdam, and East Springfield.


Churches and schools, as well as local government buildings are common photos in the Shoebox.


There are over 40 photos of the 1897 Steubenville Centennial parade, as well as several pages of photos from the 1947 Steubenville Sesquicentennial parade.


Memorial Day parades from the 1930s were donated by George and Joann Fox Griffith and show the people and buildings along the parade route.


The library system received a major gift of genealogical information and photos of individuals from Max Morgan that had been gathered by his wife Muriel Peterson Morgan, and most of those photos have been digitized into the Shoebox.


The 1950 Thanksgiving snowstorm is featured in several photos, as well as many views of the Carnegie building of the library system.


Numerous flood pictures show many different years of flooding in our area, and new photos to our collection of Butte Field racetrack, and the High Shaft Coal Co.


Many photos are marked N. 4th Street, S. 4th Street, and Market St. in Steubenville and show activity on those streets and the buildings along those thoroughfares.


Theaters in downtown Steubenville are featured throughout the images, with some great shots of the Paramount Theater.  The Capitol Theater is shown in drawings on post cards, but we would love to find actual images of the theater.


My favorite photo is the 1932 photo of Kinkaid’s Lighthouse Service Station which was located near the former Fort Steuben Bridge on Route 7, and featured an actual lighthouse as part of the gas station to attract customers.


Many of these images have been donated to the library’s Local History and Genealogy Dept. over the years, and others were brought to the library to be digitized with the original returned to the owner.


Our current genealogy librarian, Erika Grubbs, is busy adding new images every week, adding information about each photo as it becomes known.


Our previous librarian, Sandy Day, spent time indexing and editing the information in the book portion of the Shoebox for ease-of-use.


I edited the cataloging portion of the Shoebox updating the title and subject entries.


So, do you have old photos of our area that could be added to the Shoebox for everyone to use and enjoy?


Our Local History and Genealogy Dept. is located at our Schiappa Branch Library and would enjoy your contributions.