A new collection of artifacts will offer a glimpse into what life was like for an influential Lancaster family over the course of a century.
Thanks to a new grant, this collection of prized family archives will be preserved and available to all for generations to come.
In March, the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio received a $7,735 grant from the Ohio History Fund to support the digitization of the Peters-Whiley family archives. Caroline Rockwood’s family, who are descendents of the Peters family, gifted this comprehensive collection of memorabilia that spanned from the 1880s to 1990s to DACO in the summer of 2020.
“This has been a family who saved just about everything and after my grandmother died, the sorted papers and pictures went to the Ohio Historical Society to be catalogued,” Mitchell said.
The collection includes hundreds of documents⸺from photos to letters, telegrams and bills, she says.
There’s even a receipt for 6,600 feet of telephone cable, and an annual phone bill for $60. “They represent a picture of life at a certain time,” said Mitchell, whose grandfather, Phillip R. Peters, grew up in the Reese-Peters House. “This is like taking a microscope to history. You can put all these things together to get an understanding of what life was actually like.”
The collection originally belonged to Lancaster native Rockwood, whose ancestors had owned the Reese-Peters house. Rockwood passed away in 2020, and her daughter, Dodie Mitchell, recovered the collection in her mother’s basement. “She often expressed concern about what would happen to them. DACO as a repository would have pleased her,” said Mitchell.
Just as extraordinary has been the family’s collaboration to collect and preserve these artifacts, each telling its own story, over the course of multiple generations.
“Saving that and having it available for researchers and people interested, by ensuring it will be there for a while, is important to all of us,” Mitchell said.
DACO Executive Director Jason Crabill says the Ohio History Fund grant will allow DACO to digitize at least some of the archives so that individuals all over the world can learn about life for one Southeast Ohio family over the course of a century.
“We are thrilled to be trusted with this piece of Lancaster’s history,” he said. “While we do not have the ability to store or display the archives, digitization will make them accessible to everyone in the world, ensuring that these artifacts are saved for posterity.”
Once digitized, the collection will be freely available for researchers and the general public through a partnership with the Columbus Metropolitan Library. DACO expects the digitized materials to be available by next summer.
“We are grateful that DACO has accepted the archives and very appreciative of Jason applying very quickly to get the grant,” Mitchell said. “It’s very important.”