ODNR unveils online museum showcasing its artifacts

MARBLEHEAD – For many, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources brings to mind rippling streams, thick forests, and silent deer.

But ODNR’s mission also goes out of the woods and into a museum because it focuses on preserving history with as much passion as it preserves the earth. Inspired by this goal, ODNR Director Mary Mertz unveiled the Cardinal Collection, an online museum showcasing ODNR artifacts.

“The purpose of the Cardinal Collection is to make parts of the ODNR system more accessible and to promote our history,” said Ann Schweitzer, who serves as the ODNR’s historical resources administrator.

The idea was spurred by the COVID-19 shutdowns, which put a new emphasis on virtual tours and events.

But the online museum is still relevant today. Not only will the collection be accessible if another shutdown occurs, but it can also be used for home entertainment and research.

“If parts of a park close, people can still enjoy the park from their living room,” Schweitzer said.

The Cardinal Collection, unveiled May 25, includes artifacts from various ODNR parks throughout the state. Most items can also be viewed in person at the parks, but a few, such as the ODNR patch collection, are from private owners.

Most interesting and diverse articles

“Right now we’re trying to find the most interesting and diverse items in our parks,” Schweitzer said.

Items in the online museum include a collection of pottery from Beaver Creek State Park and ice harvesting tools from Lake Loramie State Park.

The collection at Malabar Farm State Park includes artifacts from the farm of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and conservationist Louis Bromfield. The house has hosted many notable celebrities, including Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who married on the farm in 1945.

The restored 1931 Coast Guard surf boat in the Lifeboat Station Museum was not used at Marblehead, but it represents boats that once saved lives off the Marblehead coast.  It is one of many artifacts featured in the ODNR's Cardinal Collection.

Local artifacts featured in the collection include duck decoys from the Magee Marsh Wildlife Preserve and several Lake Erie-related artifacts from Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. Marblehead artifacts include the 1,400 pound lighthouse lens which can be seen 12 miles across the lake. Model Coast Guard boats are popular artifacts in the park, as is the restored 1931 Coast Guard surf boat that can be seen in the park’s lifeboat station.

The Cardinal collection can stimulate interest in parks in two ways. This can encourage online viewers to visit a park, and it gives park visitors additional resources to learn more about what they saw.

“Sometimes you’re ‘museum’ when you’re there and you want to do some research later. Hopefully people visiting will want to know more,” Schweitzer said. “We should have new items added every week this summer.”

Artifacts are curated by groups of volunteers in each park and the project is supported by ODNR staff.

Staff and volunteers are passionate about history

“History is something Director Mertz is passionate about. We have staff all over the ODNR who are passionate about history,” Schweitzer said.

The ODNR has four divisions: Ohio State Parks and Watercraft; Wildlife; Natural areas and reserves, and forestry. Staff from each of these departments previously worked to preserve Ohio’s history, but the Cardinal Collection allows them to collaborate.

“Before, there was no way to bring our departments together,” Schweitzer said. “Many staff were doing this on their own. Now I can put them all together to work on a big project like this.

The ODNR Cardinal Collection can be viewed at ohiodnr.gov/go-and-do/see-the-sights/historic-places/the-cardinal-collection.

Contact correspondent Sheri Trusty at [email protected]

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