A Vibrant Appalachia

Ohio Humanities is a proud supporter of humanities work throughout Ohio’s Appalachian communities, where funds are in high demand and other support is much less common than in larger cities.

From a walkable outdoor exhibit in an Athens park that highlights the important role the humanities have played in the region to LatinX storytelling by Southern Ohio Folklife, we are proud to support storytellers and projects across 20 of Ohio’s Appalachian counties.

For example, the Southeast Ohio History Center and Invisible Ground created a series of four Immersive Storytelling Historic Markers in Athens County. The markers focus on the African American experience in Athens County and provide an immersive opportunity to physically experience history through augmented reality and place-based audio storytelling.

In July 2022, we visited Athens to to celebrate the project, which was made possible with support from Ohio Humanities.

Ohio Humanities visited Athens in July to present grant funds to the Southeast Ohio History Center and Invisible Ground at the site of their fist immersive historic marker

The first marker is at the former site of the Berry Hotel on Court Street in Athens, Ohio. Edward and Martha Jane Berry started the business as a young Black couple in the 1880s, growing it to an incredibly successful hotel and foundation for the Black community in Athens and beyond, and a jewel on the city’s main street. Visitors to the marker across from the hotel’s former location can download the Invisible Ground app to see an augmented reality reconstruction of the Berry Hotel in their device’s camera view and hear a four-minute audio orientation about the hotel from Ada-Woodson Adams.

An immersive marker at the former site of the Black-owned Berry Hotel in Athens
A digital recreation of the Berry Hotel as seen through the Invisible Ground app

To learn more about the Berry Hotel and explore more from Invisible Ground, here more about the hotel below or or visit the project’s website:

The second marker will debut in September 2022 at the historic Mount Zion Baptist Church in Athens.

Mount Zion Baptist Church in Athens

Southwest of Athens, Portsmouth, Ohio, has an equally compelling story. The Ohio Humanities-funded documentary Peerless City tells the story of the Ohio River town from its days as the “Peerless City,” through its time as “Where Southern Hospitality Begins,” to the present day, as it works to be the “Comeback City.” The film explores the impact a slogan has on civic pride, on a sense of history, and how a slogan can inspire a sense of belonging in the people who live in the place it is meant to represent.

Peerless City trailer

To learn more and find an upcoming screening, visit peerlesscity.com.

Inspired by the stories found throughout Athens, Portsmouth, and across our state’s Appalachian communities, here’s a list of some of our favorite books written about Appalachia or by Appalachian Ohioans:

Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town by Brian Alexander

Riparian: Poetry, Short Prose, and Photographs Inspired by the Ohio River from Dos Madres Press

Stay and Fight by Madeline Ffitch

Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America by Eliza Griswold

Appalachian Reckoning by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarrol

When Grandma Gatewood Took A Hike by Michelle Houts and illustrated by Erica Magnus

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

Y’all Means All: Emerging Voices Queering Appalachia by Z. Zane McNeill

Affrilachia by Frank X. Walker