Cleveland Memory Project Brings Together KSU Students, Alumni to Preserve City’s History

By Brianne Kimmel

Playhouse Square in 1928
Image from

Kent State School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) graduates Bill Barrow and Kif Francis work with SLIS practicum students to share Cleveland heritage with students and community members.

Barrow became interested in Cleveland history while working for the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University as a part his practicum for the Library and Information Science program at Kent State. The Cleveland Memory Project began when Barrow was appointed a special collections archivist in 1999.

In order to better preserve Cleveland history and make the information available to the public, Barrow has hosted more than 60 practicum students, nearly all of them from Kent State. “They will research, select materials, design digital work, collaborate with community institutions, cataloging, and the final creation of a website around their project,” Barrow said. The entire project serves as a gateway to a particular topic or community’s history around the local northeast Ohio area.

In 2002, the Cleveland Memory Project began its online efforts to ensure community members can assess Cleveland history at any time from any location. The online archives serve both an academic and professional purpose. “Authors, genealogists, neighborhood development corporations, government, and the media” utilize the Cleveland Memory Project, Barrow added. The project has helped engineering firms understand the history of an area or building to help a specific development plan. Moving all of the history to an online database has been time consuming, but Barrow said the Cleveland Memory Project is pleased to offer this service to Ohioans.

Kif Francis, a 2007 SLIS graduate and previous Cleveland Memory Project practicum student, now serves as a metadata librarian for the Cleveland Memory Project. Her responsibilities include managing the digital library system for the Cleveland Memory Project and training new staff and volunteers. During her practicum, she digitized a collection from the Greater Cleveland Ethnographic Museum, which debuted in 1975 and closed in 1981. Francis said her experience in the Digital Image Processing class with SLIS Professor Marcia Zeng, Ph.D, prepared her for the 150-hour practicum with the Cleveland Memory Project.

At the Cleveland Memory Project, Francis “stumbled upon something she was truly interested in learning more about.” In the SLIS program, being open to all types of knowledge is key. “Graduate school is a great time to explore all the different options of librarianship,” said Francis. “There are always opportunities for working in the community using your organizational skills.”

The Cleveland Memory Project continues to offer opportunities for SLIS students. Ongoing projects include: the Ohio’s Heritage Northeast and Summit Memory, which was created by both alumni and a former practicum student. “The Cleveland Memory Project is the umbrella for all of the practicum projects and a community platform for collaboration around local history,” Barrow explained. “We’ve had tremendous assistance from graduate students… they own the projects.” The collaboration between different departments, outside organizations and practicum students has made the Cleveland Memory Project a convenient resource for Cleveland history.

Visit the Web for additional information on Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science, The Cleveland Memory Project , The Greater Cleveland Ethnographic Museum , and the Summit Memory Project.

Brianne Kimmel is a senior advertising major and marketing assistant in the Dean’s Office of the College of Communication and Information.

Playhouse Square Image


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s