Three Thousand Miles from Home: Southeast Ohioans in the First World War 

Winner of the 2017 History Outreach Award from the Ohio Local History Alliance

This is an exhibit not about the First World War, rather it is an exhibit about Southeast Ohioans who supported the war effort and how the conflict affected their lives. It attempts to capture and relate the experiences of men and women from across Southeast Ohio.

The First World War brought about great change to Southeast Ohio as well as the rest of the country, and even the world. It marked the end of one era, and the beginning of the next. For many Southeast Ohioans, it was the first time they were involved directly in events on a global scale. Their actions during the war changed their lives in countless different ways, and they shared their stories about wartime experiences for years to come. Now, with no veterans of the First World War left to speak for themselves, this exhibit attempts to share their stories.

This is an evolving exhibit. During the course of the 2017-2019 First World War centennial, information panels and uniforms in the exhibit will change to reflect anniversaries and important topics relating to Southeast Ohio during the war. With any luck, every time you visit this exhibit there will be something new see.

The Stuff of Dreams

Portraits by Elise Mitchell Sanford

In 1988, at the age of 58, Elise Mitchell Sanford began a Master’s degree in Fine Arts at Ohio University. From the beginning, she knew that she wanted to change how middle-aged women were portrayed in photography. As she studied her peers, she began to wonder: How did they become the women they are today, what did they dream of becoming when they were younger, and who were the people who represented those dreams?

       Elise decided to ask them. She and her husband, physics professor Edward Sanford, rigged a backdrop in their garage and she began photographing women dressed as their childhood heroes and heroines. As more women in Athens heard about the project, a spare bedroom became her costume storage.

       Between 1990 and 1992, Elise created more than seventy portraits. The women she photographed were deans, professors, artists, librarians, lawyers, even the Mayor of Athens. As Elise recalls, “They were all successful women, but when I photographed them, they could be themselves.”

       The resulting exhibition, The Stuff of Dreams, has been on display in galleries across the United States. This is the first time they have been shown in Southeast Ohio in more than 10 years.

       Elise Mitchell Sanford was born in Burlington, Iowa in 1930. She received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Journalism from Tulane University in 1951, and a Master’s of Science in Television Writing and Production from Iowa State University in 1953. In 1988 she earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Photography from Ohio University, and she completed her Master’s of Fine Arts in 1990.

       Elise has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants for her work, including a National Endowment for the Arts Regional Visual Artists’ Fellowship in 1991, and a residency at Light Work in Syracuse, New York in 1994.

       In 2000, she founded the Athens Photographic Project, an organization that combined her passion for photography with her desire to offer the healing qualities of art-making to those suffering from severe mental illness. She taught all of the photography classes in the early years, and served as executive director until her retirement in 2007.

A Region in Transition

The John Edwin Snow Slides


John Edwin Snow was a man of many talents. He was a farmer, an electrical engineer, a professor, a collector, a woodworker, and an artist. His collection of glass lantern slides demonstrates his enjoyment in photographing the changing landscape of Athens and Southeast Ohio.

From 1890 to 1930, during his many visits to his family’s farm, Snow photographed  the region and then printed the photographs as glass lantern slides. Glass lantern slides were designed to be projected onto a wall, just as we are doing today. At a time when most photographs were small and colorless, lanterns made photos come to life. Such displays served as entertainment when family and friends gathered.

              Snow captured Ohio University’s growing campus, the development of the Athens State Hospital, and the bustling industries in the City of Athens. He also photographed quiet scenes along the Hocking River, on  the surrounding farms, and on winding rural roads. His collection offers a glimpse of our region as he saw it over one hundred years ago.

              In addition to his skill as a photographer, Snow was a talented watercolor painter. He delicately colored many of the slides in this collection.

              The collection was donated by Stanley and Patricia Grean in 1997.

"50 Years of Funk" Ohio University Marching 110 Exhibit coming October 6th. Grand opening celebration from 7-9:30pm

Copyright 2017 Southeast Ohio History Center