Ohio University

Libraries’ Mahn Center Supports Scripps Visual Discovery Conference

Visual Discovery Conference 2019 logo
Logo courtesy of Scripps College Discovery Conference

The Scripps College of Communication’s School of Visual Communication hosted the second Visual Discovery Conference and Workshop (VDC) November 7 to 11, which brought in faculty in the information design field from around the world and enabled students to collaborate on visual storytelling projects focused on specific themes. 

The first Visual Discovery Conference was held in Venice, Italy in 2018, and came to the U.S., specifically Athens, Ohio, for its second year to discuss data visualization, information design and visual storytelling.

“The opportunity to collaborate with students from other universities is also a profound experience. Observing how another person approaches a visual problem is a powerful way to learn,” said Tim Goheen, director of the School of Visual Communication.

The Libraries’ Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections staff lent their expertise during the conference and workshop. The special collections in the Libraries represent an impressive breadth of the unique materials that have been cultivated for hundreds of years. Stacey Lavender, special collections librarian, supplied archival resources on coal mining and the Athens Mental Health Center to the conference attendees. 

The Mahn Center has multiple collections about the Athens Mental Health Center including the Athens Mental Health Center records from 1874 to 1976, which document the activities of the hospital; the Auxiliary of the Athens Mental Health Center records from 1955 to 1983, which document the activities and membership of the Auxiliary; and a Collection on the Ridges, which documents Ohio University’s actions to acquire and use the land and buildings. The Mahn Center also has “The 1900: Voices from the Athens Asylum,” a documentary produced by WOUB in 2013. 

The Athens Mental Health Center records collection consists of a multitude of materials such as photographs, various types of documents including court mandates and records, newsletters, training manuals and much more held in the 74-cubic foot archival collection.

“It [the former hospital] has just been such an important part of the Athens landscape for so long,” said Lavender in a 2018 news blog about the exhibit, “From the Athens Lunatic Asylum to The Ridges: 150 Years of Hospital and Community.”

Additionally, coal mining holds a large piece of Athens and Appalachian history as it is home to generations of coal miners and a large coal industry as one of the largest producers of coal in the U.S. The Mahn Center also has several  manuscript collections about coal mining, such as the Collection on the Millfield Mine Explosion, John Owens Papers about Athens area United Mine Workers, Peacock Coal Company Ledgers, United Mine Workers of American - District 6 and much more.

“One purpose of a liberal arts education is to provide students with meaningful and long-lasting experiences. Experiences such as the VDC will not only help them become more proficient in a skill but help [them] navigate life,” said Goheen. “Building relationships with students from other institutions will put them in a position to envision ideas and worlds different than what they currently know and hopefully form long-term bonds.”

For more information on the Libraries’ collections on the Athens Mental Health Center and coal mining, contact Stacey Lavender, special collections librarian.