Exhibit on Ohio pioneers tied to McCullough book poised to open
Focusing on the word choice used in writings about the journey to settle the Northwest Territory, one Marietta College professor hopes attendees of a Monday night lecture walk away with a desire to dive deeper.
Dr. Brandon Downing is speaking at the opening of the “Ohio Pioneers, From such beginnings, much may be expected” exhibit at the college, telling a precursor to the upcoming book by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough, “The Pioneers.”
The book’s release is scheduled for early May, a timeframe which has not only the college preparing with the lecture and an exhibit, but many entities in the city as well fundraising and making plans to restore the Start Westward Monument. The book is expected to bring a surge in tourism.
“It’s in part celebrating Marietta’s heritage especially with the coming release of McCullough’s book, but also a time to reflect on the significance,” said Downing as he reviewed notes Friday for his Monday talk. “I’m specifically going to look at the journey to Marietta, then the exhibit panels highlight the major, significant points of the development of Marietta, and McCullough writes the hero’s story.”
But there’s nothing heroic or romantic, Downing asserts, in the description of the journey from the writings found in the “Western Journals of John May” who was in the Ohio Company which first set foot on the shores of Marietta.
“He described it as a tedious march, and if you look up tedious you find synonyms of too long, slow, dull, tiresome, monotonous, etc.,” said Downing. “But nowhere does he write boring, though he also doesn’t use the words exciting or fun.”
That more realistic description of the journey, as today’s vernacular might call it “the grind” is part of what humanizes these individuals, explained the professor.
“To me, the use of the language doesn’t show a sense of adventure, this movement west–this was more practical,” he said. “This was a frontier, an opportunity that they took just like anyone else who takes an opportunity to advance in life by moving to a bigger city.”
But having the courage to take the opportunities presented– that’s what Library Assistant Barb Binegar said she still finds heroism in.
“We all have opportunities and choices, but it takes that boldness and courage to do something with it,” said Binegar as she worked with other library staff to set up the exhibit panels in the Marietta College library Friday.
The lecture will take place at 7 p.m. in McDonough Auditorium and is open to the public for free.
Then after the lecture, attendees will be invited to the Legacy Library on campus to view the panels on all floors of the public building.
“We’ll have one in the basement by special collections, one on the main floor, two on the second floor and then seven on the third floor beneath the rotunda,” explained Binegar. “And they’ll be up through homecoming in October.”
Plus, she said, a second set of panels are available to travel to historical associations, museums and organization events throughout Ohio.
“That’s part of the grant we have to share this story with the state, we can send these to schools, too,” said Binegar.
The vinyl panels were designed to complement the story McCullough is publishing, by highlighting artifacts used in the research of his book.
“He’s not a historian, he’s a storyteller, and that’s an important distinction, but it’s important that he tells stories people want to read,” explained Downing. “He gets people interested in history–we need people like David McCullough keeping that interest alive.”
If you go:
• “The ‘Tedious March’: Journey to the Ohio Country,” lecture open to the public in the Marietta College McDonough Center Auditorium, 7 p.m. Monday.
• Ohio Pioneers: “From such beginnings, much may be expected,” exhibit in the Marietta College Legacy Library, opens Monday after the lecture and will remain open to the public through the college homecoming in October.
• “The Pioneers” by David McCullough will be available for purchase at the Marietta College Bookstore on May 7.
• David McCullough will speak at Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta on May 31.
• David McCullough will speak at Campus Martius Museum on June 1.
Source: Times research.