Southeast Library hosts a history of transportation exhibit

By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

Photos courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library
Shown here on Columbus’ South High Street is one of the original orange buses purchased from the Columbus Transit Company by COTA in late 1973. The photograph dates to 1976, COTA’s third year of service.

Ohio was the crossroads of the United States in the early days of the nation and a new exhibit highlights modes of transportation people used to travel about.

The exhibit, titled “Transportation in Columbus,” will be displayed at the Southeast Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 3980 South Hamilton Road, Groveport, from July 5-31 during regular library hours. The exhibit will include a panel discussion called “Transportation in Central Ohio” on July 29 at noon. The discussion will be moderated by Michael Wilkos of the United Way. The panel will discuss current transportation issues impacting the Southeast community framed by their historical context. Panelists also include local historian Jeff Darbee, All Aboard Ohio executive director Stu Nicholson and representatives from COTA and Toole Design. For information about the exhibit and panel discussion call the Southeast Library Branch at (614) 645-2275.

The Southeast Branch is one of four library branches to host the exhibit. The others are Hilliard in May, Linden in June, and Gahanna in August.

“We chose the Southeast Branch because that area of Columbus continues to experience tremendous growth and more accessible transportation options will be important for its communities,” said Kristen Newby, special collections supervisor in Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Local History & Genealogy division. “The history of transportation in southeast Columbus is an interesting one, with local access to the Ohio and Erie Canal being part of its past, as well as its proximity to Rickenbacker International Airport. We really hope that people will stop in and explore the exhibit and then attend the panel discussion.”

Newby said the goal of the exhibit is to help people understand the history of transportation in central Ohio.

“We hope attendees leave the program feeling knowledgeable and empowered to advocate for more equitable access to public transportation, which provides more opportunities for jobs, education, healthcare and other important community resources,” said Newby.

She said the exhibit takes a chronological look at the evolution of historic modes of transportation in central Ohio in the context of local, statewide and national movements – starting first with the early roads and trails established by Ohio’s indigenous groups to a hypothetical look at the future with increased public transit options across the city.

An automobile and airplane race at Driving Park in Columbus in 1914 hosted auto racer Barney Oldfield and aviator Lincoln Beachy in a car vs. plane showdown.

“A fun highlight of the exhibit is a series of photographs depicting transportation as entertainment,” said Newby. “The speed, power and agility of new forms of transportation were often displayed in public spectacle! For example, in 1914, Columbus’ own Driving Park hosted auto racer Barney Oldfield and aviator Lincoln Beachy in a car vs. plane showdown.”

Most of the images for the exhibit come from the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s My History database.

“Items on My History are either part of Columbus Metropolitan Library’s archival collections, those of another cultural heritage organizations or have been loaned to us by customers,” said Newby.

Other organizations who contributed images to the exhibit include the Columbus Dispatch, Gahanna Historical Society, Grandview Heights Public Library, Library of Congress, Ohio History Connection, The Ohio State University, and Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

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