Programs for Adults

Speakers Bureau

A variety of history-focused programs and presentations are available from WRHS curators, historians and education staff. Programs range in topic from the early history of the Western Reserve, to the social, cultural and technological evolution of its people to specialized programs from Cleveland’s more recent past. Read about the speakers here.

Programs range from 45-60 minutes in length, and are subject to presenter availability.

Click here to inquire about reservations.

New Program Offering!


Perils of the Presidency

$130 per program + mileage

Ohio has been called the “Mother of Presidents.” However, four of the eight Ohio presidents died while holding the nation’s highest office. Learn about Ohio’s surprisingly dangerous presidencies in this presentation rich in stories and images from the Western Reserve Historical Society archives.

Speakers Bureau Presenters:

John Grabowski, Senior VP of Research and Krieger Mueller Historian
Sean Martin, Curator for Jewish American History
Pamela Dorazio-Dean, Italian American History Curator
Derek Moore, Frederick C. and Kathleen S. Crawford Curator of Transportation
John Vacha
Museum Education Staff

“Chad’s presentation [WWII Up Front and Personal] was amazing and informative. We received many positive comments from those in attendance. I was really surprised that Cuyahoga County was so involved with the war effort. Thanks again!”

-Judy Stefanko, Independence Branch CCPL


John Grabowski, Senior VP of Research and Krieger Mueller Historian

$250 per program + mileage

Sports in Cleveland
How did “games” become a major business and civic enterprise? This illustrated presentation outlines the history of major sports in Cleveland, touching upon some of the area’s most noted sports heroes while also examining the manner in which games became a central part of the region’s economy.

Cleveland: Then and Now
Based on the best-selling book of this title, this lecture pairs archival photographs of sites in Cleveland with their contemporary appearances. More than a simple picture show, the presentation provides an overview of the city’s history with a particular emphasis on its neighborhoods.

Immigration and Migration to Cleveland
The story of immigration and migration is at the core of our region’s history. Today northeastern Ohio is home to over 120 ethnic groups. How did our city and region, once an outpost of New England, become a global community? What attracted migrants and immigrants here; what pushed them out of their homelands?


Sean Martin, Curator for Jewish American History

$150 per program + mileage

Zionism in Cleveland
The tie between Cleveland and Israel is very strong. Cleveland’s most influential rabbi, Abba Hillel Silver, helped to establish the state of Israel. Learn how the Jewish community from Cleveland supported Zionist ideas and continue to contribute to the developing state.

Ethnicity and Local History
This talk explores the variety of ethnic communities to which we belong and the local communities in which we live. Why do local ethnic groups form arts and cultural organizations, sports clubs, charities, and other groups which highlight their difference? How do these local groups, an integral part of our civil society, operate within larger, national ethnic groups and how do they help us negotiate our identities as citizens, members of religious communities, and/or members of other nations? To what extent are these groups successful in encouraging future generations to identify with the ethnic group?

The Holocaust and Local History
The Holocaust and Local History will focus on how the events that make up the Holocaust affected communities in both Eastern Europe, where the most horrific crimes of the Holocaust occurred, and in the United States, where the Jewish community responded to the events with both astonishment and action. The goal is to uncover the role that this complex history continues to play in our daily lives, whether in the small towns of Eastern Europe or the suburbs of greater Cleveland.

Jews and Organized Crime
Studying the Jewish involvement in the area’s organized crime throughout the20th century helps us to understand how and why some individuals became involved in criminal activity. Also considered in this history of organized crime are the relationships between Jews and other ethnic groups. With Dr. Sean Martin, Curator for Jewish American History.


Pamela Dorazio-Dean, Italian American History Curator

$150 per program + mileage

The Italians in Cleveland
This presentation can be tailored from 20 minutes to one-hour. Along with illustrations, the presentation explores Italian immigration to Cleveland from the late 19th century through present day, with a focus on life in the Italian enclaves of the city.


Derek Moore, Frederick C. and Kathleen S. Crawford Curator of Transportation History

$150 per program + mileage

The Vehicles of the Western Reserve
This presentation considers the vehicles built in the Western Reserve region from the late 1800s until 1932 when Peerless built its last automobile. Examples from the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society will be featured.

Preserving Automotive History
This presentation explores the idea of preservation standards for automotive collections and the question of Restoration versus Preservation. With examples of restored and preserved unrestored vehicles, it looks at why unrestored vehicles are important to automotive history.

Automobiles in American Culture
This presentation follows the invention and development of one of the most important technologies to shape our daily lives, the automobile.


John Vacha

$150 per program + mileage

Cleveland’s Great Lakes Exposition
Hear the story of how right in the middle of the Great Depression, Cleveland put on the biggest party it ever threw. It covered 135 acres of lakefront land, from the old Municipal Stadium to what is now Burke Lakefront Airport. Among hundreds of attractions were the Donald Gray Gardens, Streets of the World and Billy Rose’s Aquacade.

The Civil War in Northern Ohio
Based on David Van Tassel’s posthumously published Behind Bayonets, this program focuses on life on the home front in Cleveland during the Civil War. Special attention is given to the role played behind the front line by women and Soldiers Aid Society.


Museum Education Staff

$130 per program + mileage
Multiple booking discounts available for programs led by Museum Education Staff

History of Cleveland and the Western Reserve
This overview of the history of Cleveland spans from the early formation of the Western Reserve to the city’s bicentennial in 1996.

WWII Up Front and Personal
Experiences of Clevelanders during WWII as told through oral history interviews conducted in 2007.

Eliot Ness’ Cleveland: Prohibition, Beer and the Torso Murders
Travel back to the time when Cleveland had bootleggers, speakeasies and unsolved crimes.

Garrett Morgan: Cleveland’s Civic Minded Inventor
Garrett Morgan, the son of former slaves, moved north from the segregated south and went on to become a self-made business man in Cleveland. Hear the story of how his inventions the first safety hood, a breathing apparatus like a gas-mask, and the traffic signal revolutionized public safety in the automobile age.

The Golden Age of Shopping in Cleveland
Which was more glamorous-riding the elevator (with an operator!) or your first few tries on the escalator? Reminisce about Halle Brothers, May Co., Higbee’s and the Sterling-Lindner Christmas Tree.

Custard, Coasters and Carousels: Remembering Euclid Beach Park
Who could forget Laughing Sal and Laughing Sam, the Rocket Ships, the Thriller and the beloved Carousel with its 56 horses and 2 chariots? For nearly 70 years, Euclid Beach Park was the scene for memories both fond and frightening.

Fab 50s Cleveland Style: Glorious Sports, Gory Murder, Glamour Girls, & Gas Guzzlers
Re-live 1954, the year the Indians, Browns, and Barons were all in championships. Marilyn Shepard was murdered and Marilyn Monroe was married.

The Story of Tinkerbelle
Dive deep into the story of Robert Manry’s daring journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  Photographs, journal entries, and newspaper articles bring to life of this legendary story from Cleveland’s past.

Holiday Topics

      • Christmas in Cleveland
        How have yuletide traditions changed over the years in Cleveland? See how Clevelanders celebrated Christmases past, from attending the downtown parade and viewing the spectacular department store window displays, to visiting Mr. Jingeling at the May Co. and shopping at Higbee’s!


      • Crackers in the Streets: Holiday Traditions in the Western Reserve
        Learn about celebrations and partying in the holiday season in the early years of the Western Reserve. Customs came with the settlers, but many of them we would not recognize today.


      • Valentine’s Day in Cleveland
        Learn about the history of St. Valentine’s Day, experience a local story of true romance between Clevelanders Dawson and Anna Kelly, and remember your own February 14ths of years past. Examine a variety of valentines from the WRHS collection, and reminisce with Valentine’s Day advertisements in up-close power-point slides.


Welcome to the Western Reserve Historical Society
Free Introductory Program ($0 + mileage)
Learn about WRHS with this introduction to our sites, properties, collections, and services available.