Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lincoln Park Legacy - A New Journey

Telling the story of the Lincoln Park Baptist Church will require many voices. My voice, encased in my personal experiences with this institution will be here at my blog. However, the new Lincoln Park Legacy blog will be the newsfeed for the many voices I hope to restore to our collective memory. After my first segment of the Lincoln Park story told here, I encourage you to visit the new and official blog of the project to learn more and follow along as we uncover historical gems and past identities.

My introduction to Lincoln Park Baptist Church in Cincinnati Ohio came through my parents and grandparents. My grandparents were members of this church between the span of the late 1950s to the mid-1980s. My parents were married here, yet they did not belong to this congregation as they made their own family. Actually, many of my family members were married here: My aunts and uncles, and a few cousins.

Among my personal memories, I can relate a few: visiting many times with the grandparents, attending Sunday school on occasion with my cousin, attending weddings, and two favorite memories that my family love retelling when they need a good laugh. The time when I was 3 years old and had an accident that made my grandmother think her water pills were playing tricks on her, and the only time I was ever asked to be a flower girl in a wedding – I fainted dead away while standing so long, and hit my head on the seat of the hard wooden pew. This was my cousin’s wedding, and my aunt supposedly has an audio tape of the horrible, loud “bong” that my hard head made as it hit the pew. Have no fear, there were no lasting mental effects – at least that is what they continued to tell me over the years.

Back in 2007, my Aunt, who was still a member of this church, invited my parents and I up to visit during the “homecoming” celebration. This yearly event was special in 2007 for a couple of reasons. 1. The Church was celebrating 165 years of being a congregation. 2. This would probably be their last celebration because the building was about to be sold and the congregation had voted to merge with another in order to survive in any capacity. There was a third reason I was called up – due to the anniversary, all of the historical items of the church’s long history would be on display, and with my Special Collections training/history degree/genealogy experience, they could use an expert pair of eyes. At this point, the congregation knew they had a unique collection, but had no idea what to do with it once they merged with another church.

My visit in 2007 was thrilling. I instantly fell in love with this collection. It was rich and fairly well preserved. There were stories of women missionaries to China, immigrant congregations, healing ministries, hardships through the decades of American history, and just plain adorable social tidbits. After snapping some initial photos of the collection, I recommended some options if they intended to keep the collection, or if they planned on donating it to another entity.

Within the next year, I was invited back to take a closer look, give even more detailed preservation advice, and this time, advise on packing. By now, the church building had sold, and the moving had already begun. Knowing the long history of this church, I was saddened by these turn of events.

There were many in the congregation that understood the scope and value of this collection, but they were not ready to part with it. They had the foresight to plan for preserving the material, but were unsure how to go about this properly. They set aside some money to purchase preservation material and to house the items in an environmentally controlled space. However, after a few years of debating, a mold outbreak, lack of space, and re-allocation of some of the money, plans were altered by necessity. This is where I came back into the picture within the capacity of Pastology.
Under our normal operating procedures, we advise on how to set up digitization efforts in-house, in the hopes of preserving and digitizing items on a long term basis. With the Lincoln Park remnants, circumstances were changing fast, and it was evident that a long-term digitization/preservation effort was not possible with the few volunteers they had on hand. Also, their new facilities were not conducive to maintaining the items securely. Extra help was needed, and due to our unique relationship, Pastology agreed to digitize off-site, with each newly digitized batch of documents being donated to a local historical society, for longterm preservation of the original material. Another reason for this choice was the desire for quick and full access of these documents for the remaining members who are aging fast. Part of this new project will also include a portion devoted to oral history. Hopefully we can add to the collection with some oral history interviews in the near future.

That is about it for my personal connection to this collection. When I say Pastology will be digitizing the collection, that means, me, myself and I. This one is near and dear to me, so I’m taking this one on all by my lonesome. Disclaimer: Pastology is under contract and is being paid for the digitization efforts…..we are NOT however, being paid to wallow in how much fun wading through all of this content has already proven to be! What is it they say about a pig wallowing in mud? Sometimes it feels like that with the dust, and yes, a bit of mold from time to time, but I am as happy as that proverbial pig!

To follow along on the journey and keep tabs on the wonderful historical gems we uncover, please consider following our newest blog Lincoln Park Legacy. We also have a new twitter account: @oldlincolnpark. Once the newly digitized documents are entered into Pastology, they will be free to access. For any of you with Cincinnati relatives/ancestors… will want to keep tabs on this collection. The congregation was downtown for over a hundred years with as many as 1000 members at the turn of the century. One of the most fantastic things we have to digitize is a large number of completed member cards, some as far back as the 1920s. Many new Romanian and Hungarian immigrants attended this church for sometime as well…..and that is just the tip of the iceberg!

So far, my favorite serendipity moment:

I was allowed to come take charge of a few document tubs at a time. Nothing is in any order anymore, so I did poke through some of the collection to create a tub with some of the oldest things first – they will need the quickest preservation care. As soon as I arrived home with the tubs, I grabbed a few files to look through. One photo in a clear sleeve slipped out on top of the others – the subject: an adult Sunday school class from the 1950s – in the front row – my grandparents - well at least Grandpa and half of Grandma.....but still a fun moment!



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