Ohio Archives Month Spotlight 4: The University of Akron

Ohio Archives Month Spotlights: The University of Akron Archives and Special Collections

The Society of Ohio Archivists Advocacy and Outreach Committee is happy to announce that we will be spotlighting archives around the state again this year to celebrate archives month throughout October 2023. Each of our archives spotlights will feature places that house materials related to the theme of the posterLand, Water, & Air: Transportation in Ohio.

By Natalie Fritz, Archivist and Outreach Director, Clark County Historical Society

A photograph of a large, multi-story cement building in a city setting. This is a view of the corner of the building. Large letters UA are attached to the corner of the building.

The Polsky Building, University of Akron

This week we are shining a spotlight on the University of Akron Archives and Special Collections. The University was founded in 1870 as Buchtel College. The Archives and Special Collections are housed in the Polsky Building and they provide access to a wide variety of historical resources including collections on the University’s history, the city of Akron and Summit, the surrounding county, the rubber industry, which was integral to the community’s development, and more.

A black and white historic photograph of a large blimp with Goodyear printed on the side. A large hanger is in the background.

The ground crew hauls out the Goodyear blimp, The Puritan, from the Wingfoot Lake Hangar, for its first flight, July 3, 1938.

Important transportation related collections in the archives include the Lighter-than-Air Collections. The images from the  Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Records are great for those interested in blimps and airships. (Especially for someone like me who grew up in Akron and was amazed by the sheer size of the Wingfoot Lake Hangar and who got excited whenever we’d spot the Goodyear Blimp around town)!

A black and white historic photograph of canal boats in the water in a canal. A house is in the background.

Negative showing the Basin at Lock 3 on the Ohio & Erie Canal in Akron in Summit County, 1869. (Note: Lock 2 is now the home of the Akron Rubberducks Canal Stadium and Lock 3 Park, now an entertainment venue nearby are both along the original canal).

As a native Akronite, I grew up biking and walking the restored Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which extends from Cleveland south to New Philadelphia, Ohio. The canal related collections includes over 400 photo negatives by Louis Baus, documenting canal life.

The University of Akron Archives and Special Collections are open Monday-Friday, 10am-3pm and by appointment. You can contact the archives here.


Interview with Mark Bloom, Senior Archives Associate, MLIS, CA, 15 years with the UofA

Can you tell a bit about your career path?

I started working toward a career in archives late in life. I got my MLIS with a focus on Archives in my 40s at Kent State University’s SLIS program. I was fortunate enough to do a brief internship at the Archives of the History of Psychology which led to two years as a contract archivist with them. In 2008, I got a part time position in the University Archives and later applied for and got a full-time position as the second in charge of the Archives.

What drew you into the archival field? 

I enjoy reading history. As an undergrad at BGSU I was exposed to the Center for Archival Collections and a young soldier’s journal from the War of 1812 published by Dr. Richard Wright The John Hunt Memoirs: Early Years of the Maumee Basin, 1812–1835. (I have since discovered the guilty pleasure of enjoying reading 100–200-year-old mail and diaries). That started my interest in archives and special collections and primary source documents.

What do you like most about your job?

I think most of all it is a pleasure working with my colleagues. I have and continue to work with exceptional people who enjoy history and making materials available for researchers.  I enjoy finding answers for people, or at least finding material that may answer their questions.

What is your favorite transportation related collection?

Our facility houses a number of transportation or travel-related collections.

  • B-26 Archives and Archives of the Ninth Air Force Association (WWII Army Air Corps veterans reunion associations.)  I very much enjoy working with the Veterans and their families to find or help preserve their stories.  World War II Collections.
  • Canal Society of Ohio and canal related materials.  The Canal Society of Ohio has preserved Ohio’s canal history and heritage with guided tours and presentations to its members since 1961.  These consist primarily of materials relating to the planning, construction, use, operation, and rebuilding of canals in Ohio.  Canal Collections.
  • Rubber industry Collections including Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company records, B.F. Goodrich Company Records, and General Tire.  These collections include information about product lines from shoe soles to tires to Spacesuits.  Rubber Industry Collections.
  • Lighter than Air Collections such as the Goodyear Aviation Series, the Lighter than Air Society collection, Lockheed Martin (The Lockheed Martin collection is the Goodyear materials that LM inherited when they acquired Goodyear Aerospace.)  If you are interested in Blimps or Airships, these are the collections for you.  Lighter-than-Air Collections.
  • Erie Lackawanna Railroad records and Akron, Canton and Youngstown RR Historical Society Collections.  Transportation Collections.
  • The Ohio Edison Company (OEC) was formed in 1950 after a merger between the Ohio Public Service and Ohio Edison. With its headquarters located in Akron, Ohio, the OEC was responsible for providing services to 569 rural communities and 22 municipalities. The OEC continued to expand to become the FirstEnergy Corporation in 1996. The records include minute books, ledgers, cash books, operating reports, and photographs from over 200 subsidiary companies that formed Ohio Edison and Ohio Public Service. The records also include information on street car and interurban development including annual reports, timetables, motormen reports, financial records, and photographs.  Ohio Edison Company Records.

Other collections that include travel:

  • Lucius V. Bierce Diary:  Lucius V. Bierce (August 4, 1801-November 11, 1876) The namesake of the University of Akron main library was born August 4, 1801, to William and Abigail [Bell] Bierce.   He attended Ohio University from December 3, 1817, and graduated September 11, 1822, receiving his AB [Artium Baccalaureus] degree.  After six years at college, he had decided to travel for a while.  He travelled through Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and back to Athens, Ohio.  He described the places and people he met along his journey.
  • Jorgen Petersen Canal journals: Jorgen Petersen was a canal boat captain who hauled goods up and down the Ohio Canal in the 1860s-1870s.  During this time, he recorded his day-to-day activities in diaries highlighting his life on the Canal.

What is your personal favorite transportation related item in the archival collections?

A black and white historic photograph of a man standing and wearing a pressurized suit. The suit is dark in color. There is a flat surface covered with a sheet behind the man.

Screenshot of a silent black and white film showing a high altitude flight suit that Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was developing.

It is a toss-up between B.F. Goodrich Mercury Spacesuit photographs or Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s concept booklets and photographs of space exploration especially the inflatable moon house or inflatable space station.  I also enjoy the Mary E. Gladwin and the Lucius V. Bierce Diary, but just a warning, they were people of their times so sometimes have attitudes that are potentially offensive.

This image shows a screenshot of a silent film showing a high altitude flight suit. The film is available on YouTube here.

All images courtesy of The University of Akron Archives and Special Collections.  Follow them on Instagram.

Last Updated on October 26, 2023 by Emily Gainer