Trailside Museum - North Chagrin Reservation - 1931
Courtesy of Cleveland Pulblic Library - Photography Collection
Each Trailside Museum was strategically placed in a forested area with a trail leading to each. Walking and immersing oneself into the natural environment before reaching the museum (nature center) was part of A.B. Williams’ philosophy. Each Trailside Museum exhibited mounted birds, mammals and reptiles and other specimens prepared by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Live indigenous animals were kept at each site to intrigue and educate visitors. It is thought that these trailside museums were the first in our nation’s history.
Mr. Williams was respected by experts in the fields of outdoor education and ecology. In the 1940s, he was instrumental in the Kirtland Society, a broad-based nature study group that focused on ornithology, geology, nature photography, reptiles, trees and many other subjects. Out of this Society came the Kirtland Bird Club, which is still thriving today.
He served as naturalist and curator of education at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, naturalist for the City of Cleveland, the managing board of Holden Arboretum, and Chairman of Committee of the Moses Cleaveland Trees Sesquicentennial Commission, just to name a few.
He published several studies and reports entitled, “Birds of the Cleveland Region,” “The Native Forests of Cuyahoga County, Ohio,” and “Geology for the Cleveland Region.” His weekly nature column for the Cleveland Press brought nature education into Clevelanders’ homes from 1943 to 1950.
In North Chagrin Reservation, a granite stone and plaque are placed amidst his beloved beech/maple woods, protected in his name – the A.B. Williams Memorial Woods.
This remarkable man built a firm outdoor education/nature study foundation for Cleveland Metroparks. Today, Cleveland Metroparks naturalists and cultural history interpreters still build upon the legacies of naturalists like A.B. Williams. We too want to unlock the wonders of nature and cultural history to our patrons, like Our First Naturalist.
A.B. Williams with a lesson on skunk cabbage - 1945
Courtesy of Cleveland State University - Cleveland Press Collection