Where Have I (we) Been?

Image of Senior Editor Dr. John Grabowski, of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Senior Editor John J. Grabowski

It’s been a long while since I’ve last written a posting for this site and that seems antithetical given the hours of solitude I have had during the Pandemic shutdown –lots of time to write, hours in front of a keyboard and a screen – certainly there’s no good excuse for the silence, so to speak.

Yet I think there is, because I was, like so many others, consumed in contemplating the changes swirling around us: a major election; a growing movement to confront racial inequity; and an ever escalating national (indeed, international) argument about history. That argument goes beyond simply whose history gets told and whose is neglected. Indeed, it rests on which facts one chooses to believe and which interpretation provides more personal comfort. But history has always been like that. Yet this time, I would argue, it is different given the multitude of “voices” speaking to historical issues on the web and through social media platforms.

And, while all of this has been going on, budget cuts and attacks on tenure have imperiled many university history departments. At the same time, high school textbooks are, in some states, being purged of those individuals and events that do not fit the ideology of a political party.

Like everyone else I have contemplated this maelstrom of issues in the midst of two enormous global challenges, the Covid pandemic, and escalating concerns about the climate – and as I’ve noted earlier, I’ve had a great deal of time for navel gazing. Yet, one major item, this Encyclopedia, has given me a focus of sorts. I and the staff have thought long and hard as to how we can keep the ECH current and up-to-date. And by going back to the community, we have succeeded.

So watching new articles come in, as well as updates and corrections for existing articles has provided a positive focus for me and, I am sure, for Meghan Schill and Ryan Chamberlain our Associate Editors. By latest count we have updated or created over 400 entries during the Covid crisis. Mark Souther and Chris Roy have updated almost our entire set of entries relating to neighborhoods and suburbs; Jim Dubelko has also touched up and created new content in this and other topical areas. Vince Guerrieri has worked on multiple new entries relating to sports; Margaret Lynch, in concert with student authors, has provided biographies of all deceased individuals who have been honored with a Walks of Life Award. Dennis Dooley has created an extensive list of individuals active in the arts who need to be included in the ECH. Biographies of some have already been, or are being created by many by our student interns. Todd Michney and members of the African American history task force have authored and expanded multiple entries, and in doing so have provided important perspectives on the community. Dr. Pietro Shakarian, in addition to writing new or expanded entries on a number of ethnic communities, expanded our entry on Film in Cleveland which now stands as “the” history of film making in our city. That work, in turn, inspired Jim Culley of Cinecraft to write specific new entries on area commercial filmmakers. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox and Marian Morton have similarly expanded our content in the area of women and gender and John Nosek and Leon Stevens have buttressed our content relating to the LGBTQ+ community.

Certainly, this is not a complete list of all who have helped move the ECH forward in its approach to the past, but it does give one an idea of the enthusiasm and concern people have for the history of Greater Cleveland, and of their willingness to make the historical record as complete and accurate as possible. That interest is truly appreciated by myself and the staff. And, more so, it is a very good omen, particularly at a time when we are confronted with the deeper meaning of the question, “Where have we been?” History matters - and it is up to us to ensure that it is accurate, inclusive, and accessible to all. Indeed, at this time it might be good to consider ourselves as Guardians of the past!

John Grabowski

PS: You too can be part of the team. Just send an email to jjg4@case.edu and let us know what topical areas and entries might be of interest to you. You can find a list of our major topical areas at: https://case.edu/ech/categories. We will take it from there!