Ohio Historical Society Offers Free Admission To Wilbur H. Siebert Collection

COLUMBUS, OH -- In celebration of the heroes of the Underground Railroad, the Ohio Historical Society will provide free access to the internationally acclaimed Wilbur H. Siebert collection throughout February’s Black History Month.  


The digital collection, available through Ohio Memory, the statewide digital collections in partnership with the State Library of Ohio, includes historical correspondence of Underground Railroad participants; photographs of agents and former slaves; and maps of Underground Railroad routes. This online collection normally requires a standard OHS subscription fee; however, the Ohio Historical Society is excited to make this collection available for free throughout the month of February, in celebration of Black History Month.

 “The stories of the Underground Railroad, as reflected in Siebert collection, are unique to Ohio’s history and are an integral part of the national African American experience,” said Angela O’Neal, director of collections. “We are pleased to provide free access to this fascinating collection and share additional insight into this network to freedom. The conductors, fugitive slaves and abolitionists paved the way for future freedom and civil rights movements in the United States creating a perfect partnership with this year’s National Black History Month theme, At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”

The items in the collection were compiled by Wilbur H. Siebert, a former history professor at The Ohio State University from 1891-1935. His research material on the Underground Railroad, collected over a period of 50 years, includes survey responses, interviews and copies of notes from books, diaries, letters, photographs, newspapers, biographies, memoirs, speeches, annual reports, trial records, census records and legislation. He organized his research by state and county, eventually binding his notes in volumes by location. His original papers have been held by the Ohio Historical Society's Archives/Library since 1946. The Siebert Collection is available at


Among the many fascinating items in the collection are transcripts of letters by well-known abolitionists such as Harper’s Ferry abolitionist and activist John Brown and Ripley, Ohio’s famous Underground Railroad conductor John Rankin; a letter Siebert received from famous former slave Frederick Douglass; and, other documents that show the large role Ohioans played in the abolitionist movement.


Throughout the month of February, the public can view the over 5,000 Ohio-related items from the Siebert Collection through Ohio Memory, without a subscription. In addition to unlimited access throughout Black History Month, the online collection gives researchers the ability to search the full text of documents; page through multiple-page documents; and zoom in to view documents more closely.


Subscriptions to the Ohio Historical Society’s Siebert Collection support the collection digitally and physically - as well as access to the extensive collections, archives and library services of OHS.


Organizations or individuals interested in access to the collection beyond the free access period in February should contact the Ohio Historical Society with further questions or for subscription information (including pricing) at Discount pricing is available for Ohio Historical Society members.


Founded in 1885, the non-profit Ohio Historical Society (OHS) provides a wide array of statewide services and programs related to collecting, preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archaeology and natural history. The society has over 1.5 million items in its collections throughout its 58 sites and within its 287,000-square-feet Ohio History Center at 800 E 17th Ave. (Exit 111 off Highway I-71), Columbus, Ohio, 43211. The Society receives a portion of its funding from the state, but relies on admission fees, memberships, grants, donations and other forms of revenue to continue to serve Ohioans in the future. For information regarding the Society, contact Mark Holbrook, Marketing Manager, Ohio Historical Society: 614.297.2319, Visit Ohio Historical Society at