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School of Environment and Natural Resources


New Exhibit Showcases History and Role of Forests in Ohio

Feb. 13, 2017
Visitors attend the Building Ohio State exhibit in the university’s Thompson Library in Columbus. (Photo: Kenneth Aschliman.)

This news article originally appeared on the website of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A new exhibit presented by the Ohio State University Libraries tells the story of the unique connection and history shared between The Ohio State University and Ohio’s forests.

Building Ohio State: From Forest to the Renovation of the Thompson Library examines the past, present and future of Ohio’s forest resources.

On display through May 14, the exhibit features interactive opportunities to learn about Ohio’s forest resources, shows examples of forest products, and highlights sustainable forest management and its continuing role in education, sustainability and economic development in the state of Ohio.

The William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, Ohio State’s main library, underwent a complete renovation from 2006 to 2009 that not only transformed the building into a 21st century research library and campus hub, but also restored the original 1913 library to its historical grandeur.

Another view of the Building Ohio State exhibit. (Photo: Molly Bean.)

“As a part of this extensive renovation, Ohio-sourced white oak was incorporated into the design of the building. The white oaks in the library are being enjoyed by thousands of visitors every day, so there could not be a more fitting place on campus to tell the story of Ohio’s forests,” said Florian Diekmann, one of the exhibit’s curators and an associate professor and food, agricultural and environmental sciences librarian with the University Libraries.

Early in the 20th century, the Department of Forestry at the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station was responsible for the acquisition and management of Ohio’s state forest system, which included Zaleski State Forest, where the white oaks used in the library renovation originated.


The experiment station, which was established in 1882, changed its name in 1965 to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. In 1982, the center became part of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). 

“With the renovation, the efforts of the university have come full circle, and the Ohio State University Libraries are excited about the partnership with CFAES to tell this story,” Diekmann said.

“From the days of the Ohio Forestry Bureau trying to determine the condition and extent of Ohio’s forest resources to the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station conducting tree research and educating Ohioans on how to manage this valuable resource, Ohio State has had and continues to have an impact on Ohio’s forests and woodlands,” said Kathy Smith, who is also one of the exhibit’s curators and leads Ohio State’s Ohio Woodland Stewards Program. The program is run by Ohio State University Extension, which is CFAES’s statewide outreach arm.


“Today the university helps landowners be good stewards of the state’s forest resources through OSU Extension programming and educating students to be future foresters and land managers,” Smith said.

Ohio white oak and the Thompson Library renovation

Building Ohio State celebrates the 10th anniversary of the renovation of the Thompson Library, for which white oak from Zaleski State Forest was essential. The renovation sought to restore the building’s original elements while updating the library for the 21st century.

While the original woodwork of the 1913 library was reused where possible, every piece of new white oak veneer and solid wood was hand selected for the project by Wellston, Ohio-based Superior Hardwoods of Ohio Inc. Adam Conway, president of the company and vice president of the Ohio Forestry Association, said Ohio is known worldwide for the quality of its white oak, so it was only appropriate to feature the wood in the renovation.

The exhibit features a veneer tree made of white oak solid hardwood and rift veneer, which was used to construct the panels installed throughout the library, and a section of a white oak tree damaged by a 2004 ice storm in Licking County, Ohio, that inspired the use of the wood for the renovation.

Visiting the exhibit

The exhibit is on display in Ohio State’s Thompson Library Gallery, 1858 Neil Avenue Mall, Columbus. Admission is free and open to the public. The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

For more information, visit


Molly Bean



Florian Diekmann

Kathy Smith