Connecting With the Past through Technology: Oberlin Heritage Center

Guest Post by Rachel Weidinger, TechSoup Global

Oberlin Vitrine

Students explore their city’s roots reviewing historic documents.

When I think of technology, I typically think of progress, moving forward and the next big thing. But the Oberlin Heritage Center in Oberlin, Ohio, recently reminded me that technology can also be powerful when it helps us connect to the past.

The Oberlin Heritage Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the area’s extraordinary, nationally significant heritage. Now a small college town, Oberlin played a crucial role in the Underground Railroad, as well as acting as a hotbed of abolitionism, women’s activism and scientific discovery.

Many current residents of the area have deep roots reaching back into these important historical events. A particularly rewarding part of Oberlin Heritage Center’s mission is connecting residents with their ancestors. Some of the Center’s most popular public offerings are public online databases which include historic photos, cemetery records, city directories, and the historic building inventory. An in-house database includes extensive genealogical records that the Center uses to answer queries from people seeking family history information from all over the country. Unfortunately, when several people logged onto the databases at the same time, server performance would lag, leading to frustrating experiences for visitors.

When the Center approached Microsoft and TechSoup Global for a software donation, we were more than happy to help. The installation of Windows Server 2008 and Exchange Server 2010 improved server performance, which allowed the Center to add new databases, increase the size of their existing databases, and – most importantly – offer visitors a better experience.

“Microsoft’s donation allows the Oberlin Heritage Center to uphold high standards and museum practices, and be recognized as one of the Nation’s models for small history museums,” said Patricia Murphy, Executive Director of Oberlin Heritage Center.

Technology has enabled more people to connect to Oberlin’s history, as well as to their own. So I guess technology is moving us forward after all.

This Place Matters

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We’re committed to ensuring that nonprofit organizations like Oberlin Heritage Center have access to the technology they need to fulfill their missions. For more information or to get started on your own donation request, please visit

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