Ohio History Center: Peer into state's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

Delve into Buckeye State’s past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum
Ohio History Center

Thousands of vehicles travel daily along I-71 north of downtown, past the brutish, rectangular building near the Ohio State Fairgrounds. For many years we’ve done the same, occasionally peeking at the statue of a soldier, which peers at us outside the building’s eastern flank, while attempting to dodge the countless semis and other vehicles that flood this busy highway.

That building, of course, is the Ohio History Center, the heart and soul of the Ohio History Connection, the record keeper of the Buckeye State’s past. If you take the time to wind off the highway and make your way into the 1970-era building, you’ll find a well-curated trove of Ohio history and other relics of the past.

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

Ohio’s historical reserve contains an impressive collection of historical artifacts as well as rotating displays that make the past come to life.

Many people associate the center with Ohio Village, a recreated 19th-century community populated by guides dressed in period clothing. Ohio Village sparkles during the winter holidays with Dickensian-era performers, then closes for the winter and early spring. This year it opens May 25.

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

But there are still plenty of things to see and do right now at the history center, which boasts more than 60,000 square feet of exhibit space. Historical displays are the center’s bread and butter. We enjoyed viewing ancient artifacts and the history of Native American culture, as well as displays that showed Ohio’s endangered species.

The center often has special guided presentations, such as Medical Marvels and Mishaps, which examines three centuries of medical techniques and tools.

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

The rotating special exhibits also are worth the trip. An example is Ohio — Champion of Sports, now on display through September 2020. It’s an interactive look at sporting heroes who hailed from or played a majority of their careers in the Buckeye State. For example, we saw a vivid description of Buster Douglas’ shocking 1990 defeat of Mike Tyson for the world heavyweight boxing championship, told by none other than Buster himself.

The displays represent both professional and amateur sports, from a racing suit worn by IndyCar champ Bobby Rahal, to LeBron James’ rookie jersey, to a display that surprisingly identifies the basketball team from Hiram College as the only college in the country to win a team Olympic gold medal, in 1904. There are several interactive displays, including those that urge patrons to shoot baskets or record their wildest victory dance.

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

The sports exhibit winds through space occupied by the entity’s regular exhibits. They include the 1950s display, which includes old toys, a bomb shelter hatch, an Airstream trailer hitched to a 1957 Chevrolet Bellaire, and a prefabricated Lustron house which was manufactured in Columbus after World War II.

Don’t forget to take the elevator to the third-floor library, which houses a huge collection of books, manuscripts, government records, newspapers, maps and photos. You can even use for free to look up information on your relatives.

The Ohio History Center is located at 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The library and archives are open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Learn more at

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Take a trip to Civil War-era Ohio

A trip to historic Ohio Village in Columbus proved eventful for my modern-day children, accustomed to playing games on iPads and watching movies on Netflix.

Ohio Village is a make-believe, Civil War-era town, where costumed performers play the parts of the residents. Visitors can roam the town and learn what it was like to live in the late 19th century through their interpretations and by participating in activities.

My two children and I visited on a sunny Sunday. Rosie, 7, and Max, 5, quickly got into character, pretending they lived in the town. I played the part of a horse, pulling them in a wagon.

We played on old-fashioned swings and a teeter-totter. Rosie enjoyed visiting the schoolhouse, where she sat at a wooden desk and wrote her name with white chalk on a black slate.

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A husband and wife team demonstrated old-fashioned cooking techniques in a farmhouse, and a blacksmith shaped tools in a shed. We also visited a toy shop, a doctor’s home, an undertaker’s office, a pharmacy, a general store, a hotel and a church.

The best part was just relaxing in the town square. A flock of chickens skittered back and forth, and children ran sack races to the tune of a brass band.

Ohio Village is an attraction of the Ohio History Center Museum, 800 E. 17th Ave.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Ohio Village is open during regular museum hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and noon-5 p.m., Sunday.

Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12, and free for children ages 5 and younger.

The Ohio History Center Museum is the flagship museum of the Ohio History Connection, formerly known as the Ohio Historical Society. Founded in 1885, the nonprofit organization has nearly 2 million artifacts in its collection and partners with 58 historic sites around Ohio.

For information about programs and events, call 614-297-2300 or 800-686-6124 or visit

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