New exhibit reflects disasters the Valley has faced

New exhibit reflects disasters the Valley has faced

A statute of a steel mill worker outside of the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor. An exhibit on disasters in the Mahoning Valley began on Oct. 23 and includes information on Black Monday, when thousands of steel workers in the Valley were laid off. Photo by Frank George/ The Jambar.

A statute of a steel mill worker outside of the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor. An exhibit on disasters in the Mahoning Valley began on Oct. 23 and includes information on Black Monday, when thousands of steel workers in the Valley were laid off. Photo by Frank George/ The Jambar.

The Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor has opened a new exhibition that focuses on some of the hardest times the Mahoning Valley has endured.
The “Disasters in the Mahoning Valley History” exhibit was developed and directed by students of Youngstown State University’s Museum Curation and Interpretation class.
The free exhibit was opened in October and will continue until Dec. 31. The project features four significant disasters that left a scar on the area and was spearheaded by Donna DeBlasio, a professor within the university’s history department.
“The exhibit looks at four disasters in Mahoning Valley History: the 1913 flood, the 1950 snowstorm, the 1985 tornado and Black Monday in 1977,” DeBlasio said.
DeBlasio said that an enormous amount of information was gathered and sifted through before it could come to life.
“Photos are from the collections of the Ohio Historical Society’s Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor and the archives of the Youngstown Vindicator. Research was done using various sources, including newspapers and oral history interviews,” she said.
DeBlasio indicated that although all of the disasters took a considerable toll on the area’s economic development, it was Black Monday in 1977 that most significantly damaged the area’s economy.
“At the time these disasters occurred, they certainly impacted the community in terms of recovering from the damage caused by them,” DeBlasio said. “However, Black Monday, which is the day the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company announced the closing of the Campbell Works, was the most devastating in terms of the region’s economy, since it was the beginning of the end of the demise of the steel industry.”
Martha Bishop, a library assistant for the Youngstown Historical Society’s Office of Archives, worked with the students in helping to identify materials for the Society’s collections. She said the exhibit is important because it preserves vital local history.
“There is always a new generation, or people from other geographic regions, who are interested and eager to understand the local history and roots of their community. Preserving this local history, and sharing the root stories of our community is our mission,” Bishop said.
She also indicted that the exhibit already has people talking.
“This exhibit resonates with patrons. I have already heard conversations beginning, ‘I remember…’ or ‘Where were you when…’ and ‘Wow, is this..?’. Patrons are responding to the opportunity to share their stories with others, and this is the goal: to pass on our stories and shared history,” Bishop said.
DeBlasio said she enjoyed working on the project and is always working with museums on preserving the history of labor and industry.
“The topic was selected because Disasters in Ohio History is this year’s theme for Archives month, which is selected by the Society of Ohio Archivists, so we decided to look at local disasters.  We are always doing new temporary exhibits at the museums focusing on topics related to industrial and labor history,” DeBlasio said.
On Wednesday November 6, DeBlasio and her class will be opening a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian called Journey Stories, which looks at the impact of immigration and migration.

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