As we wind up the Your Parks, Your Stories oral history project in August, I can truly say this has been one of the most awesome projects I have been associated with since my employment with Cleveland Metroparks in 1996. The passion that patrons have for Cleveland Metroparks is astonishing. The passing of the levy last fall by over 70% was a great encouragement and the interviews put voice to their approval and confidence in a well-run park system for nearly 100 years.
Judy MacKeigan (park historian) and a slew of volunteers have assisted me in collecting 133 interviews. The range of interviews has been very eclectic. We have collected from lifetime residents, recent transplants, multi-generational families, and individuals in their 90s all the way down to elementary-age students. Stories of picnickers, birders, campers, golfers, bicyclists, retired employees, current employees, horseback riders, hikers, boaters and self-taught naturalists who know the park system inside and out comprise these stories. We look forward to revealing some of their memories to you through exhibits, blogs, articles and even in a special edition Cleveland Metroparks 100th Anniversary book. Look for an announcement in December 2016 for details to purchase your own copy.
Photos from many of the participants have made this project even more dynamic as we have images accompanying many of their recollections.
Dr. Mark Souther, Associate Professor of History, Director, Center for Public History + Digital Humanities; and Erin Bell, M.L.I. S. , Center for Public Hisotry + Digital Humanities from Cleveland State University have been outstanding to work with as they have shared their expertise with oral history equipment, tips in conducting interviews, assisting in resolving technology issues and coaching me through this project. Dr. Souther has overseen the two graduate students, Sarah Kasper and Dani Rose, who logged and clipped the interviews.
He also managed a special project specifically for Cleveland Metroparks previously established by Cleveland State University called Cleveland Historical. It is a website and free mobile app that features curated historical tours of Greater Cleveland through interpretive narratives, historic images, audio clips and short featured films. Rich Raponi, M.A. in History and a member of the staff at CSU Center for Public History +Digital Humanities was contracted as a researcher and writer to produce 15 new Cleveland Metroparks sites that will be released in batches on Cleveland Historical in July 2016 and January 2017. Cleveland State University will also be a repository for Your Parks, Your Stories interviews collected since January 2014, also to be available to the public in 2017. We are grateful for their collaborative and contractual relationship that has been nothing short of true professionalism.
All these collaborative ventures and collection of awesome stories would not have been possible without a generous grant from the Ohio Humanities Council (a State Affiliate of the National Endowment for Humanities) supporting in part this oral history project and Cleveland Historical web tour. Thank You!
A special thanks to all the Cleveland Metroparks staff and volunteers who have supported this project and to all the participants who sat down with us this past year- and-a-half. We truly couldn’t have done it without you.
The following interview clips are from Marc Duncan, a gentleman who grew up living on East Drive amidst Hinckley Reservation most of his childhood. He returned to his childhood home for a few months and has now returned to Thailand. The second interview clip is from Eleanor Janoch, a life-long resident of Cleveland who remembers Garfield Park when she road a street car to the park on several occasions. By the way, she is 95 now!
Marc Duncan grew up literally with Hinckley Reservation as his playground.
Eleanor Janoch, a 95 year young Clevelander who has fond memories of Garfield Park in the late 1920s and 30s.