Welcome Chris Riley

Welcome Chris Riley

Welcome Chris Riley!

By Christopher Riley

Hello, Buckeye State! I’m delighted and honored to be the Ohio History Connection’s newest intern. My name is Chris, and I live in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, land of golf tournaments, Celtic celebrations, and concrete corn cobs.

I’ve always loved the arcane and archaic. In elementary school, I scoured my suburban Ohio sandbox for Peruvian mummy bundles—knowing full well, of course, that the soil hid nothing but bits of rusty metal and pulverized concrete left from my home’s construction. (But then, a child’s imagination can make anything exotic and enchanting, can’t it?)

I educated myself about the history of crash-testing and crash-test dummies (or anthropomorphic test devices, as the industry experts call them), and I fantasized about finding one of LaMarcus Thompson’s long-lost creations in the backwoods of West Virginia. (Thompson, often credited with inventing the roller coaster, hailed from Jersey Township, Licking County—a mere thirty-minute drive from the Ohio History Center!)

In time, I turned my attention to architecture and cultural geography, which remain my specialties. In the fall, I’ll start my senior year at a classical liberal arts college in a certain mitten-shaped Great Lakes state (which, for the sake of avoiding a second Toledo War, shall remain nameless).

Thus far, I’ve finished working with only one collection: MSS 1215, or the papers of Dr. Kermit L. Hall (1944–2006), a law professor and historian who held a smorgasbord of appointments and dealt with the release of documents concerning John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In 1986 or 1987, Hall hatched a grand plan to publish the Biographical Encyclopedia of the American Judiciary, a compilation of biographies about U.S. judges, state and federal. Alas, this work was never published, though Hall did manage to write six other books and edit many more.

 Kermit Hall, Image Courtesy of University at Albany.
Nothing so inspires and astounds the researcher as combing through other researchers’ work. Hall must have spent hundreds of hours in countless libraries, trawling through county histories and painstakingly copying vote counts and lists of judicial appointments—quite a feat, given that he also managed to teach classes, grade papers, handle administrative tasks, and maintain a lively association with various organizations.

Perhaps he drew inspiration from those judges whose lives matched his own. The son of an Akron tiremaker, Hall rose from obscurity to the summit of academia. He became not only a first-generation college graduate, but a first-generation M.A., a first-generation Ph.D., and a first-generation J.D. He certainly shames those of us who were weaned on the Internet, and for whom “research” consists of a bit of Googling!

A week ago, I started with a second collection—something more closely related to what I most love—a stockpile of slides, papers, prints, and gorgeous large-format photos collected by two Columbus-area architectural firms: Brubaker/Brandt and Holroyd and Myers.

 Getting work done on the architectural collection.

The two firms, both defunct, designed a plethora of buildings in central Ohio (and elsewhere). Brubaker/Brandt is responsible for some of the region’s most recognizable postwar structures, among them One Nationwide Plaza, the Rhodes State Office Tower, and the Motorists’ Mutual Building. For more information, look for the finished finding aid in the Ohio History Connection’s collection catalog.

Ohio Bell Telephone Company Building.
In time, perhaps, I’ll make a splash in the world of historic preservation. The Ohio History Center holds plenty of preservation collections, and some of them are begging to be organized. And, likewise, thousands of Ohio buildings—buildings languishing in obscurity, buildings threatened by remodeling and decay—are begging to be photographed and studied.

I try to do my part. I write, now and then, about architecture and preservation, post my photos on Flickr, and display some of my finest work with 500px. But working at the Ohio History Connection is the finest opportunity of all. Thanks!

Posted June 30, 2017
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