Lakes of Knowledge

D'Erra Jackson and D'Erra Jackson

Lake Superior is the largest Great Lake and has an average depth of 482 ft. Lake Michigan is 118 miles wide and 307 miles long. Anyone looking for information like this, or even knowledge on the Great Lakes, can head to the fifth floor of the Jerome Library.

Located there is the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, one of the nation’s largest storage areas containing Great Lakes information. Collections include materials documenting commercial shipping, maritime law and shipwrecks. The types of materials include manuscripts, newspaper clippings, maps and more.

The HCGL is one of the many categories of the Center for Archival Collections. Other categories include special collections, rare books and northwest Ohio. The CAC is a nationally known regional history archive located on the fifth floor of the Jerome Library. It was established in 1969 as the Northwest Ohio Great Lakes Research Center.

Richard J. Wright, who had an interest in Great Lakes maritime history since high school, collaborated with another history professor to form the center, said Bob Graham, archivist for HCGL.

The CAC serves to acquire, preserve and make available to researchers and students documentary materials in categories, such as the Great Lakes.

Students, faculty and genealogists all use the HCGL, as well as others throughout the world thanks to the Internet, said Graham. People from all over use the online databases to ask questions and make requests for different information or photographs, he said.

Someone interested in restoring a yacht built on the Great Lakes just recently sent Graham an e-mail requesting information such as construction drawings, blueprints, plans for the vessel and the builder.

Some students find the Great Lakes collections and other archives very useful.

‘I use the collections for different history papers and projects especially when I need primary sources and it’s cool because the staff is helpful and I always get the information I need,’ said senior Kevin Towns.

Senior Tomika Smith agreed.

‘The collections help with research papers and history projects, but it’s also interesting how people can use the collections to trace their history,’ Smith said. ‘It would be nice to see if I could find anything about my past and family.’

Museums and book publishers use the collections as well. TV producers who make productions dealing with the Great Lakes use the collections for different documentary records and photographs. Their uses are fairly broad, Graham said.

The HCGL comes from a variety of sources, most of which are donated. Individuals, families, corporations and organizations all donate material to the center, Graham said.

Families oftentimes donate things like old diaries, photographs or pieces of correspondence from their father or grandfather pertaining to their time on the Great Lakes.

Many people wonder why the collections are in Bowling Green and not somewhere like Michigan, Graham said. He said Wright had his own historical collection dealing with the Great Lakes, so when he came to Bowling Green he brought it with him and it eventually evolved into an institutional collection.

The CAC has been around for a while. In fact, members just celebrated its 40th anniversary in September. Through its collections, public services and programs, the center will continue to preserve history for future generations and support the University’s academic mission. ‘