In honor of its 150th anniversary year, Cleveland Public Library is launching two ongoing, community-based projects to document and celebrate the lives of Clevelanders. Throughout 2019, in partnership with ideastream and the Cleveland Print Room, the Library will share the diversity of everyday life in the city through photographs and stories.
“Through these photography and oral history projects, we’re committing to capturing life in Cleveland as it is right now, in 2019,” says Aaron Mason, Cleveland Public Library Director of Outreach and Programming Services. “These won’t be partner profiles or portraits of city leaders or city monuments—this is meant to honor our patrons, to share the stories of everyday Clevelanders who make up the fabric of our city.”
As a city-wide, community-based photography program, Cleveland 20/20: A Photographic Exploration of Cleveland, will capture Cleveland’s people and places. This multi-faceted program enlists a range of photographers, from teens to local professionals, to spend a year documenting the residents and neighborhoods of our city. Additionally, the program features community engagement opportunities with nationally renowned photographer Ruddy Roye; public outreach and portrait sessions at community events; photography slams; and special photography displays in neighborhoods.
Cleveland 20/20 will also help bolster the Library’s Photographs Collection. Currently, this collection includes 1.3 million photographs, most of which portray the city in the mid-1800s through the early 1990s. Cleveland 20/20, meanwhile, will continue the collection and better reflect today’s local communities by presenting a vibrant, diverse view of the city. Finally, the Cleveland Print Room will curate a major exhibit of the project, scheduled for Main Library’s Brett Hall in 2020.
“Cleveland 20/20 will focus on the richness of our city through the lens of its neighborhoods, its communities, its residents, its diversity, and the many talents of its inhabitants,” says Shari Wilkins, Executive Director of the Cleveland Print Room. “We believe the process we use to collect the images, along with the photographs themselves, have the potential to connect our community, create a greater sense of civic pride, and generate awareness for Cleveland Public Library and the critical role it plays for all members of our community.”
The Library is also partnering with ideastream to spearhead a storytelling project to gather stories from Cleveland residents recorded in their own voices. Like Cleveland 20/20, this project aims to document the lives of today’s Clevelanders and to portray a comprehensive, diverse portrait of our city. Select librarians will be trained to interview patrons who wish to record their stories. These brief interviews may focus on family history, immigration to Cleveland, military service, education, the life and culture of particular neighborhoods, and more, all to create a snapshot of Cleveland in 2019 in residents’ own words. From these initial interviews, ideastream will produce six stories throughout the year, which will air on 90.3 WCPN ideastream and online.
“ideastream is committed to illuminating the world around us,” said ideastream Chief Content Officer Mark Rosenberger. “Listening to local stories from diverse voices is essential for documenting the present and shaping the future of Northeast Ohio. We look forward to collaborating with the Cleveland Public Library on this important project.”
Contributor Justin Glanville will work with ideastream to curate the stories. “Hearing someone speak in their own voice about a story that is important to them is such a powerful way to build connection, understanding, and compassion,” says Glanville. “My hope is that this project draws us closer together as a city and as a region.”
All stories gathered by Library staff will be archived in its Digital Gallery. The Library also has the capability to record interviews in a patron’s native language, including Spanish, French, Mandarin, Russian, Romanian, Italian, Arabic, or Hungarian. Patrons interested in participating should contact Shayna Muckerheide in Cleveland Public Library’s Outreach and Programming Services at 216-623-2921 to find the closest available location to record a story.
Both the ideastream storytelling project and Cleveland 20/20 will be represented at the Library’s CPL150 Street Festival on Saturday, July 27 in downtown Cleveland. During this free public event, attendees will have the opportunity to share their stories with ideastream and engage with Cleveland 20/20 photographers.