Saving History - Cleveland Starts Here® at the WRHS Cleveland History Center

In celebration of its 150th anniversary in 2017, the Western Reserve Historical Society gave a gift to the community in the form of an exhibit called Cleveland Starts Here®. Sponsored by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation Cleveland Starts Here® is a comprehensive, dynamic and engaging display all about Cleveland.

Over 800 items from the WRHS collections and the latest digital, interactive media are used effectively to tell the story of how a small wilderness town on the shore of Lake Erie became an industrial giant, the home of immigrants and American presidents, a world-class center for arts, culture and education, and a world-renowned innovator in medicine and health care.

Cleveland Starts Here® is located at the WRHS Cleveland History Center in University Circle. It covers over 6,000 sq. ft. in the Reinberger Gallery and includes a theater with a 10-minute introductory film. It officially opened to the public on Nov. 29, 2017 and is a permanent installation.

Within the exhibit, the city’s history unfolds chronologically by decade. The story starts with Moses Cleaveland’s arrival in the region in the 1790s and continues around the perimeter of the gallery through the 1960s. The center of the gallery contains two large towers covering the 1970s through the 2000s. Artifacts, listening stations, documents, and digital monitors allow visitors to understand and experience life in Cleveland during each time period.

WRHS has been collecting Cleveland history for 150 years and Cleveland Starts Here® provides access to many really interesting, rarely seen artifacts, documents and photographs. Included among the items on display are Moses Cleaveland’s surveyor’s compass and field notebook, an original Mr. Coffee machine, Miss Barbara’s Magic Mirror, and a podium from the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Interactive touch screen displays encourage further exploration. The Create Your Own Exhibit allows the visitor to review artifacts and documents by subject and assemble selections into an exhibit they name. Another digital display helps the visitor to discover Moses Cleaveland’s family tree to inspire personal family history research. A third interactive is a map the visitor can use to learn history geographically.

The portion of the exhibit on community history will change in the coming months, but right now it highlights holiday traditions in the various religious and ethnic communities of Cleveland. A La Befana doll donated by Liliana, Gino and Beatrice Colage helps visitors to learn about the tradition of the old woman who brings gifts to Italian children on January 6 each year.

Cleveland Starts Here® connects everyone to the story of Cleveland and fosters an appreciation of the city, whether a native Clevelander, transplant or tourist. Discovery drawers, peek and see viewers and touch screens invite children to explore and learn, too. Nowhere else is the history of the Best Location in the Nation told in such detail and with such impact. Plan a visit to the WRHS Cleveland History Center now to view Cleveland Starts Here® by visiting or calling 216-721-5722.