Wades On Elephants

Western Reserve Historical Society – The Wade Project Begins

CLEVELAND, OH – Your family helped support the cultural core of a city. Now, how can their experiences be leveraged to encourage future entrepreneurs and philanthropists?

The Wade Project is a new initiative at the Western Reserve Historical Society designed to tell the story of the Wade family, and to create an online model for studying individual family histories with a focus on institutional collaboration, research, and discovery. In addition to producing print and digital publication of key archival collections, The Wade Project will explore best practices in inter-institutional collaboration to create a model for understanding how Cleveland’s culture and economy was shaped over time by those who gave plentifully to a wide variety of institutions. This uniquely American interpretation of “giving back” to the community determined the role and impact that cultural organizations would have in American cities.

In 1881, Jeptha Homer Wade offered 75 acres of land along Doan Brook to the city of Cleveland for a park. It was one of the first large gifts of open space to the city. Cleveland’s Wade Park and the surrounding area—known today as University Circle—is home to more than a dozen museums and cultural institutions. It is a nationally and internationally respected cultural center. The role of the Wade family in the cultural and corporate growth of Cleveland continues to resonate today.

The driving need of influential families to create cultural legacies characterized a particular aspect of American philanthropy. To a great degree, these nineteenth and twentieth century gifts built the cultural infrastructure of the arts in America. The Wade project will focus on the Wade family’s historic legacy in Cleveland while serving as a resource and hub for collaborative projects with other institutions holding Wade materials. The project is supported by generous gifts from Mrs. Jeptha Homer Wade III, the George Garretson Wade Charitable Trust, and Theodore Sedgwick, US Ambassador to Slovakia.

The goal of the first phase of the project is to create an online and easily accessible repository of the family papers in the collections of Western Reserve Historical Society.  This repository will enable students and scholars to explore the complex—and often conflicting—decisions involved in the creation of America’s urban cultural centers in the late 19th century. The initial scholarly collaboration will center on the annotation of an extraordinary set of family travel journals.

Goals of later phases of The Wade Project are to encourage collaboration among scholars and the diverse institutions in the city holding Wade materials, to encourage and created discussion of best practices in inter-institutional collaboration, and to provide a model that allows access to records of other families who shaped the city’s culture and economy over time.

Dr. Holly Witchey, PhD., recently named Director of the project, brings 30+ years of museum curatorial and interpretive technology experience to the position and currently teaches graduate museum studies at both The Johns Hopkins University and Case Western Reserve University. She recently completed the transcription of the Randall Wade’s Travel Journals (1870-71).

Media Contact: Alyssa Purvis, apurvis@wrhs.org
(216) 721-5722 ext. 1407