Ohio History Connection Logo

Archives/Library Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to basic questions about visiting and researching at the Ohio History Center Archives/Library.

Where are you located?

The Archives/Library is located on the third floor of the Ohio History Center. The address is 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, OH 43211.

When are you open?

The Archives/Library is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Is there an admission charge to visit the Archives/Library?

There is no charge to use the Archives/Library. We do ask visitors to register for a library card, which you can do at the Welcome Desk at the Ohio History Center. For more information, please see Visit the Archives/Library.

Can I use a camera to photograph documents and photographs?

The Ohio History Connection does encourage visitors to use nonflash digital cameras to photograph items from the collection. We ask that they agree to and sign the procedures specified in the Ohio History Center Digital Camera Use Form.

Can I bring in my own scanner to make digital copies of materials in the Archives/Library?

Due to the fragile nature of items in the Archives/Library collections, scanners are not allowed in the Research Room. Placing books face down on flat surfaces or pressing a wand scanner into contact with original documents puts stress on the bindings and brittle paper. We have a special copier that cradles items face up to alleviate the stress on our collections. Our staff are trained to make paper photocopies in a way that is safe for original documents and provides the information you need for your research. If you need actual digital copies, arrangements can be made through our Digital Services area.

What is “paging” and why can't I go into the collection storage area myself?

Paging is having a library staff member retrieve a collection from shelves that are not open to the public. This is for preservation and security purposes. We keep the most commonly used materials in the Archives/Library's Research Room, where researchers may access the shelves directly during a visit. However, the vast majority of our collection is in the “closed” stacks storage area. If you need an item that is not in the Research Room, we ask that you fill out a call slip at the Archives/Library reference desk. Depending on how busy we are, it can take between 15 to 45 minutes to retrieve the materials for you. Due to the time involved in retrieving collections, we will only page items from storage until 45 minutes before closing.

Why do you have so many rules for using the collections in your archives/library?

The goal of the Archives/Library is to provide access to collections for our researchers. We are also responsible for ensuring that collections are preserved for future generations to come. We have developed use policies to make collections available in an environment that is safe for their survival. We encourage visitors to come to our library and use the collections. The action of research gives the documents meaningful value, which identifies them as worthy of being preserved. We are mindful of future researchers hoping to have the same experience of using the collections. We use our rules for careful handling of material so that collections will be available for years to come. Ask us about any rule that seems curious to you and our librarians will explain how the policy helps to preserve the archives/library collections. If you have questions, please contact us at reference@ohiohistory.org or 614.297.2510.

Why does paging take so long?

The closed stacks storage is made up of 3 floors that wrap around the outside of our building. Travel time to the location of an item is part of what takes time. Our staff may be retrieving multiple items per trip to the storage area. Items may be fragile and/or an unusual size, which requires extra care in handling. We strive to deliver the material as quickly as we can. If you have concerns about the length of time that has passed, please ask the staff in the Research Room to provide an update on your request. Remember that Archives/Library staff love to answer questions and want you to have the best research experience possible.

Why don’t you want us to re-shelve books and microfilm ourselves? Wouldn’t that help you?

We do appreciate the desire on the part of our visitors to help us. Our staff is trained to understand the shelving system so that items will be returned to their proper place and can be found quickly the next time they are needed. When items are misplaced, it takes a lot more time to figure out where they are. Our staff and volunteers specialize in ensuring that materials are re-shelved correctly, and we use our re-shelving time as an opportunity to review the condition of materials.

Remote or Off-Site Services

I can’t come in to use your archives in person. How can I use your resources?

Depending on what you need, we may be able to make copies or send microfilm to a nearby library through interlibrary loan. Due to copyright and conservation issues, restrictions may apply. Please see our Services information for information about fees and services and information on interlibrary loan procedures.

I don’t know what you have to even request copies. How do I find out?

Information about our holdings is available through our Online Collections Catalog. Many of our manuscript collections also have finding aids that provide a more detailed description of the scope and contents. If you have any questions about our collections or searching the Online Collections Catalog, please contact us at reference@ohiohistory.org or 614.297.2510.

Why don’t you have everything available online?

Although we have scanned some items from our collections, digital copies represent a small fraction of the collection contents in our archives. We are continually working to make items available in digital format, but there is a cost in money, time, and staffing that affects our ability to make collections available electronically.

Can you do the research for me?

Our staff is happy to talk to you about your research goals and suggest collections and resources that might help answer questions. If you need our staff to do searches for you, please see an explanation of the various Services we offer for researchers who are unable to visit our archives/library in person. For very complex, time consuming research requests, we will need to refer you to a professional researcher.

How can I learn more about doing research myself?

We offer genealogy workshops and webinars on a variety of subjects. Please see our Workshops listing for more details.

How do I request something through interlibrary loan?

We can only make loans of microfilm to other libraries for use within their facilities. Please contact your local library and have them make arrangements. For more information about out interlibrary loan policies, please see our description of Services.

I tried calling you on the phone with a reference question. Why was I told to send an email or letter with my question instead?

While our staff members are talking with researchers on the phone, they are unable to quickly go to the storage area where our collections are shelved. It may be that your question is too complicated to completely answer during a telephone conversation or our staff may need more information than you have readily available during the call. Also, your question may require research to answer, which would incur a research fee. Finally, our individual staff members have different areas of specialty. Receiving your question in writing allows us to direct your inquiry to the person who is best able to answer it.

Birth, Death, and Marriage Records

How do I get copies of birth, death and marriage records?

You are welcome to visit the Archives/Library in person to make copies yourself, or you can request that our staff make copies of records for you. Please review our descriptions of Birth Records, Death Records, and Marriage Records to learn more about collections and how to request information.

These are government records. Why do I have to pay for copies?

While we receive state funding, we are not a state agency. The funds we receive from the state pay for the expenses involved in storing and making the records available, but do not cover the cost of providing copies. In accordance with Ohio law, we charge fees based on our actual cost for paper, maintenance and labor.

Why do I have to pay the fee for a record if you weren’t able to find it?

Your request fee helps pay for staff doing the work of the search.  While the majority of records were filed with the best of intentions to follow the procedure in place during the time of creation, people in the past made intentional and unintentional errors when collecting and documenting events.  Our staff have a combined decades of experience searching for records that are archived at the Ohio History Center.  We make every effort during the search process to find and copy the record you have requested.

Why does it cost more for death records from before December 20, 1908?

It takes more staff time to locate records from before December 20, 1908. Between 1867 through 1908, death records were kept as line entries in county probate court ledger books. The indexing during this earlier time frame is not as orderly or carefully structured as was done for post 1908 records. The 1867 through 1908 indexes and records are usually handwritten and often very difficult to read.

Can I get a certified copy from the Archives Library?

We cannot provide certified copies of records held in our archives. Because we are not the issuing authority, meaning that we did not create the record, we cannot provide you with a legally certified copy.

Getting Involved

What can I do to help the Archives Library?

Your support is always appreciated. We operate at our best with investment from our supporters. You can become a member of the Ohio History Connection or make a donation. You can also volunteer to help with the behind the scenes work.

I would like to donate a book, manuscript, map, photograph, etc. How do I do that?

Please contact collections@ohiohistory.org with a description of what you would like to donate. A curator will call you to make arrangements from there. They may need more information to determine whether your item is appropriate for our collections. We do appreciate all offers, but not everything is within the scope of what we collect here.

What kinds of materials don't you accept?

If we already have multiple copies of the same book, we may not have space in our storage area to accept another copy. We only accept original materials. For example, we could accept an original copy of a pamphlet from 1911 but would not accept a photocopy of the pamphlet. Self-published family history books are welcome. We ask that they be bound, indexed, and include information about families that lived in Ohio. Please contact us if you have questions about anything you are interested in having considered for donation.