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Ohio State’s hidden treasures: Collections of artifacts on campus

Chris Poche / Design editor

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In different lecture halls and libraries on Ohio State’s campus exist hidden treasure troves of ancient artifacts and special collections.

Among these collections are cartoons, costumes and clothing, university memories, fossils and more.

Orton Hall Geological Museum was completed in 1893 and named after the first university president, Edward Orton, Sr.

The museum, which is open to the public, houses a collection of fossils and minerals from Ohio and around the world, with a catalog of 54,019 specimens, said Dale Gnidovec, curator for the Orton Geological Museum.

Additionally, the museum has mammoth and mastodon teeth, a full-size replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull and a mounted skeleton of a giant ground sloth.

“The giant ground sloth skeleton at the entrance to the exhibit hall is one of only four left in Ohio,” Gnidovec said.

Orton Hall received attention Jan. 8 when Nathaniel Harger, a 19-year-old student majoring in biology, allegedly broke into the museum and attempted to steal several valuable items on display. Gnidovec said the OSU Police described Harger as violent.

“They had to pull their guns,” Gnidovec said. “He actually tore off one of the claws of the (sloth) skeleton there and used that as a knife to defend himself.”

University police said Harger was in possession of a claw, but denied that he used it as a weapon against officers. Harger’s lawer, Tom DeBacco, said they do not yet know Harger’s trial date.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, which was originally housed in two converted classrooms in the Journalism Building and established in 1977, also has received attention, but for its new location.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum is “the largest and most comprehensive academic research facility documenting printed cartoon art” with more than 450,000 original cartoons, according to their website.

Lucy Caswell, professor emerita and founding curator for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, said that this museum is held at a constant temperature of 60 F with no humidity, to ensure preservation of materials. Caswell said the librarians are required to wear white gloves when handling and assessing the drawings.

“My favorite part of working here is how much you learn about different time periods,” said Chelsea Mitchell, a fourth-year in history and one of the museum’s librarians.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum is located at 27 W. 17th Ave. Mall, next to the Wexner Center for the Arts. The museum will be moving to Sullivant Hall in the fall of 2013.

“The museum serves students and faculty on our campus as well as national and international researchers,” said Lucy Caswell, professor emerita and founding curator for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

From cartoons to clothing, the next trove is in Campbell Hall, which houses the Historic Costume and Textiles Collection with pieces dating to 1770, said Gayle Strege, curator for the Historic Costume and Textiles Collection.

The gallery features an exhibit on dress from around the world called the Global Textile Trades and Global Gallery. The next exhibit will feature the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts with various uniforms over the years.

Similar to the cartoon museum, the costume collection is kept at a constant 70 F with no humidity, Strege said.

Perhaps one of the most unknown places on campus is the costume collection’s extra storage facility. In Campbell Hall, it is available to view by appointment only.

“We are here as a resource for students,” Strege said.

Many things can be learned from clothing, such as what society, culture and technology was like during that time. Most pieces come with a history, Strege said.

“It’s fun to see old things and how people lived. It’s a more personal experience,” Strege said.

Members from the different collections around campus are working on putting together a Center for Material Culture Studies, which would serve as one central place to organize and study materials, Strege said.

“It would be nice for people to have a place to find these things,” Strege said.

Artifacts and memorabilia from OSU’s early years can be found in University Museum, located in the first floor lobby of University Hall and was put together by the Ohio Staters, Inc. during the rebuild in 1976.

The museum is dedicated to the history of students and their organizations at OSU.

Photos of past presidents line the walls and cases are filled with pictures of early buildings and clubs, which serve as a looking glass into the past.

Finally is the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, which features a changing gallery and a Special Collections room.

The gallery features “Year of Shakespeare: The Exhibition,” until April 29 with pictures from original plays, costumes, playbills and more.

The special collections room also houses “Friendship 7 at 50: An Anniversary Celebration of John Glenn’s Historic Space Flight,” which contains pictures, books, recordings, awards and the astronaut’s flight suit.

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