Photographing Collections Objects
Posted March 4, 2021

By Jessica Naples Grilli, Design Assistant for Ohio History Connection

Photographing Collection Objects

When COVID-19 shifted our working and social conditions, causing the Ohio History Center and partner sites to close, our staff wondered how we could perform isolated tasks and bring our collections alive outside of our physical spaces. One approach was with the use of digital photography.

With the generous support of a National Endowment of the Humanities grant, the OHC Exhibits team was able to reimagine the photography of collection objects. During this time, we tested different photographic styles, lighting and framing and discussed the importance of creating clean, detailed images that would best showcase objects from our collection.

We began working with collection objects that are included in the newly built Harding Presidential Library and Museum in Marion, Ohio. While installing the exhibition, we carefully handled and photographed 170 objects for a total of 1800 images before selection and editing. These images include testing with lighting and exposure while on site. The final edited count was 260 images that will be included in our online catalog when it becomes available later this year.

Photographing on-site at the Ohio History Center

Warren G. Harding Collection Objects from the White House

One of the most exciting parts of this project was looking at archival photographs where President Harding and Florence Harding were using items from our collection.  From his inauguration suit to souvenirs they received during their trip to Alaska, seeing the president and first lady in contact with the items reinforces the significance of these objects.

H 95125 – Warren G. Harding’s Suit

Warren G. Harding wore this suit to his inauguration on Friday, March 4, 1921.

Photograph from Ohio History Connection, Dr. David Shneidman Collection, MSS 1705 AV

H 99879 – Executive Office Chair

This wooden swivel chair was used by President Harding in the executive office.

Photograph of office courtesy of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2002713194/

H 15700 – First Lady Florence Harding’s Necklace

This beaded elephant necklace belonged to First Lady Florence Kling Harding. She can be seen wearing the necklace in photographs from the 1920 presidential campaign.

Photograph from Ohio History Connection, P 146, Box 20, https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll100/id/737/rec/1

Collection Objects from the Voyage of Understanding

In June 1923, President Warren G. Harding and First Lady Florence Harding embarked on what the president called a “Voyage of Understanding.” It consisted of a cross-country journey through the continental United States, along with stops in Canada and the Alaska Territory—the first official visits to those areas by a sitting U.S. President. Harding hoped the trip, intended to last about two months, would help him connect with the American people before the 1924 campaign and gain insight into how the federal government could better serve the people of Alaska. The following collection objects are from this trip.

H 16437 – Souvenir

This souvenir papier-mâché potato was given to President Harding in Idaho Falls, Idaho in 1923.

H 15981 – Totem Pole

This wooden totem, known as the Staff of Authority, was given to President Harding while on his Voyage of Understanding.

Photograph from Ohio History Connection, Dr. David Shneidman Collection, MSS 1705 AV

H15621.001 - Miniature Railroad Bridge

This miniature bridge was made by Wallace B. Calderhead of Nenana, Alaska, in 1923. It is a reproduction of the railroad bridge that crosses the Yukon River at Nenana, Alaska. The bridge is made of Alaskan gold. It was presented to President Harding by the city of Nenana, Alaska.

H 15929 - Scrimshaw

These walrus tusks were carved by the Natives of Alaska and presented to President Harding by W.F. Sheard in Tacoma, Washington, on July 5th, 1923.   One tusk is carved with a two-dog team, a dogsled and a driver. The other tusk is carved with a walrus on an ice field, two fish and a rod, and two Native Alaskans with canoes.

H 15928 – Totem Pole

This hand-carved and painted wooden totem pole was made in Alaska around 1923. There is an eagle perched at the top of the pole followed by a bear, a raven and a beaver. The totem pole was presented to President Harding by A.N.B. on July 9th, 1923.

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