West Side News

Collections a home for 'a citizen-soldier's things'

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

In his 1983 singer-songwriter Tom Waits wrote, poignantly, about a garage sale:

a tinker, a tailor

a soldier's things

his rifle, his boots full of rocks

oh, and this one is for bravery

and this one is for me

and everything's a dollar

in this box

While rifles and rock-filled boots don't necessarily fit the bill, the man in charge of the Ohio Army National Guard Historical Collections is constantly on the lookout for a wide array of citizen-soldier's things: diaries, letters, photos, flags.

Many such items and others of true historic significance, Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Mann suspects, wind up in garage and yard sales or, worse, thrown away when attics and basements are cleared out.

"What I tell people is I will come to you," Mann said last week. "Even if you think it is nothing ... we'll look through it."

Housed in the Adjutant General's Department at the Maj. Gen. Robert S. Beightler Ohio National Guard Armory off West Dublin-Granville Road, the Ohio Army National Guard Historical Collections is a "recognized museum activity by the U.S. Army Center of Military History," according to a recent announcement from the guard's community outreach office.

Mann hopes the collections may one day be within an actual bricks-and-mortar museum, but funding for such a facility remains elusive.

"The hurdle is the financial part of it," he said.

"Part of the reason we do what we do is to collect things today so if that goal is achieved down the road, five, 10, 50 years down the road, there will be things to display."

"The mission of the collections is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the military heritage of the citizen-soldier of Ohio," the recent announcement stated.

"In accomplishing this mission, the collections functions as a resource to both the military and civilian communities for education and research.

"In order to tell the Ohio Army National Guard's story we need your help," the statement reads.

"Every year at yard sales, flea markets and community trash collections, our heritage is lost. That old uniform, photograph, letter, book, audiovisual recording or diary in your attic or basement may be the last link to a piece of the organization's heritage."

"It happens every day," Mann said last week. "Someone passes away and people clear out the attic.

"Some people recognize it, but most don't."

While the majority of what has been collected at the armory dates to 1900 and earlier, the genesis for the Ohio Army National Guard Historical Collections was the old "relic room" that was inside the Ohio Statehouse when it was completed in 1861, according to Mann.

It came to hold trophies from the Civil War, including flags and weapons.

The relic room was "unofficially where the memories of the Ohio National Guard were first collected," Mann said.

Over time, as space inside the Statehouse became more precious, the Ohio Historical Society took many of the items from the relic room, the historian indicated.

In the early 1980s, some Ohio Army National Guard officials became serious about collecting historical artifacts.

"Some folks at that time actively started collecting, soliciting donations of artifacts of stuff," Mann said.

"The thought was a museum somewhere down the road."

When he came on board as historian in 2004, Mann said the collections were pointed out to him by various people as "that's the room with the old stuff in it."

"No one really knew much about," he said.

Now, Mann knows lots and lots about it.

"We have a pretty good archive of books and photographs and uniform records," he said.

The collection also includes a Medal Honor, which arrived in the mail at the Adjutant General's Office not long after the collections were first housed there.

It was mailed by the grandson of Lt. James Jardine, who was awarded the honor during the Civil War.

It's actually a reissue of the medal; Jardine went West after the war and had the original stolen, along with his trunk.

There's also a whale's tooth that was given to the armory's namesake, Maj. Gen. Beightler, when he was made an honorary member of a tribe on Fiji during World War II, Mann said.

The Ohio Army National Guard Historic Collections are not open to the general public, but are available to those doing historic research.

For more information or to make items available to the collections, contact the Ohio Army National Guard's historian at 336-7311 or via email, joshua.d.mann.mil@mail.mil.

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