MANSFIELD — The Sherman Room at the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library is a treasure trove for local historians.
Curious to learn more about Ohio’s first trial of the century that took place in Mansfield in 1954? Head to the Sherman Room and you’ll find how the local media breathlessly covered the epic Max Sternbaum murder case.
Looking for a first-person account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln? General Roeliff Brinkerhoff of Mansfield was at Ford’s Theatre, saw John Wilkes Booth fire the shot that changed America forever, and wrote about it in his autobiography. The best place to find this story is at The Sherman Room.
Sorting through this information and blogging about some of her findings is now Mary McKinley’s job. She just arrived this year and is probably your first call (419-521-3115) if you have a history question regarding Richland County.
So we asked Mary if she would be interested in sharing some of her thoughts with Richland Source, and perhaps allowing us to publish her blog in the future.
RichlandSource: Can you tell the community about your background and how you started here?
Mary McKinley: I’ve been the Sherman Room librarian for about six months now. I attended the College of Wooster to get my Bachelor of Arts with a double major in History and Classical Languages (Latin and Greek), during which time I had my first experiences working for institutions like Licking County Records and Archives Department and the College of Wooster Digital Collections Department.
When I graduated from Wooster (go Scottish!), I moved to Maryland to get my Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Maryland at College Park, with coursework focused on archives and digital preservation.
RS: What brings you to Mansfield?
MM: I guess you could say the Sherman Room brought me to Mansfield. This position is quite unique in the balance it has between helping people research and find their answers and the archival side of things – many positions in libraries, archives and museums are either either.
Preserving history is so important, but also helping people discover it ensures that memory lives on in the community, and I love having the opportunity to do both.
RS: Can you describe your tasks and what are some of the things you have already accomplished?
MM: Generally speaking, I’m here to help the people of Richland County reconnect with their roots and the history of the community! If anyone has a question about the history of Richland County or wants to trace their family’s history, I help them find the answers they seek. Probably the most common things I help people with are our directory collection and obituary research.
When I’m not actively helping someone with research, I can do a number of things.
I do preservation work for archival or primary source materials in the Sherman Room, I work on digitizing eligible materials so that they are accessible to the public no matter where they are, and when I have the time I write blog posts about interesting tidbits at Richland County History.
I’ve had a fantastic time working in the Sherman room so far, and I think I’ve already achieved some goals. The first thing that comes to mind is that I was recently able to help the library become a FamilySearch Affiliate Library, so patrons at all branches have expanded access to a wealth of digitized materials.
I’m also quite proud of my work compiling a full list of the mayors of Mansfield from the time Mansfield was incorporated through the 1950s, as I haven’t been able to find where anyone has been able to previously. I hope to continue creating helpful resources that help people discover Mansfield’s history more easily, but those are two things I’m really happy with so far.
RS: What are your first thoughts on the library, and specifically the Sherman Room?
MM: I found the library to be an amazing place to work because everyone is so welcoming! And I have been very impressed with the services that the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library provides to the community, from the Objects Library to the Sherman Room, to wonderful and fun programs for everyone, from story times for children to decorating cakes for adults.
When I first looked at the library, I had never seen a library that listed “fun” as one of its core values, but I think MRCPL does a fantastic job of providing all the services of “traditional” library, then going beyond with fun and unexpected opportunities.
Regarding the Sherman Room, I was seriously impressed with the historical collections and resources that I am able to offer the community. Every time I go in search of a piece of history, I always discover another piece of history or a story that I did not expect. He never fails.
So many people before me have put so much work into collecting, maintaining and creating guides for the Sherman Room collection since 1908, when the library in its present building was opened with the Sherman Room already gone. integral part of the collection, and these years of dedication show. I’m proud to be just a part of the 114-year legacy of the John Sherman Hall.
RS: What interesting fact about our community has already caught your attention?
MM: This is both a very difficult and very easy question because there are too many interesting facts to consider! I guess one thing I noticed is that Mansfield’s connections are numerous, inside and outside of Mansfield.
There are so many personalities, from Louis Bromfield to John Sherman to Sherrod Brown, who have been connected nationally and internationally (did you know Bromfield was friends with another Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Edith Wharton?), but also within Mansfield itself everyone was connected, everyone knew each other. It seems like every time I start looking through the history of a Mansfield figure, I find that, hey, guess what, they were related to that other Mansfield figure in three different ways that I didn’t expect.
Historically, Mansfield has had industry behemoths and high traffic travel connectivity, and those towering personalities that were and are known across the country, but it still managed to have the “everyone knows” factor. everyone” that you would typically see in “small towns in the United States”.
RS: What would you like Richland Source readers to know about the Sherman Room?
MM: I guess the most obvious answer here is that the Sherman Hall has all sorts of historical resources open to the public, from local directories going back to 1907, to city historical directories going back to the 1860s, to local newspapers going back as far as 1823 , collections of photographs and postcards.
Additionally, we strive to make as many of these resources available online as possible, especially photographs, postcards, yearbooks, and unique historical resources that are in the public domain. Check out all the digital resources at www.mrcpl.org/shermanroom, and I guarantee that no matter how long you’ve lived in Richland County or how much you know about the area’s history, you’ll find something new to you, whether it could be a postcard from the Reformatory or a newspaper article from Mansfield in 1857.
I think a lot of people don’t know that if you can’t come to the Sherman Room, for whatever reason, and you have a question or a particular item or yearbook photo you’d like to see, send a email [email protected], and I’ll do my best to help you find what you’re looking for.
Also, readers should know that the Sherman Room is for their stories and the history they make today in Richland County too! I am available to help clients digitize and preserve their own family history books and pictures, and the new Media Department Memory Lab (https://www.mrcpl.org/services/memory-lab/) is available for other formats like VHS and film negatives.
RS: Could particular research items that the Sherman Room seeks for the community help find?
MM: We have almost a complete set of the Mansfield Senior High School yearbooks, the Manhigan, from 1907, but we are missing copies from 1975, 1976 and 1978. If anyone has a copy they are willing to donate or loan to the library even for a day or two to be scanned and hosted online, that would be fantastic!
We also get a lot of requests for yearbooks for elementary and middle schools, and we just don’t have that many to offer. For anyone who wants to see what yearbooks we have available, the page is here: https://shermanroom.omeka.net/yearbooks
RS: Is there an event or person you’re looking forward to learning about about this region?
MM: I’ve been working on researching Lewis Brucker, who was a longtime lawyer and Mansfield figure who died in 1941, and I’m really looking forward to digging more into his story.
He was a founding member of the Bank of Mansfield, the Mansfield Telephone Company and founding president of the Mansfield Optimist Club. He was therefore very involved in many important groups and services in Mansfield. It’s almost harder to find the things he wasn’t involved with.
I also tend to find the mayors of Mansfield to be fascinating people, and have worked to compile more information about them, which is harder than you might think in the 1800s. Henry Brunner particular has been a pleasure to research, and there is still much to learn about him.
However, this is kind of a trick question for me, as I am perpetually curious and always eager to find out more about any historical mystery!
RS: Is there anything that has surprised you so far about the library, your work, or the community?
MM: I don’t know if there is anything in this work that was a surprise, but this work is, by nature, full of daily surprises. I never know what the next person who walks through the door is going to ask, and I love that.
I get a lot of great questions that lead to a lot of great research. Just this week, someone came to me asking about a building on Main Street in Bellville, and we found out it was a clothing store owned by three generations of a family, until in 1980, and that in 1935 a “gang” of thieves stole all the clothes in the store from her, except what was on the mannequin in the window.
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