October 2023 | Uncovering Treasures: A Journey through the Junior League of Cincinnati Lower Level

Authors: Erica Bock, Emily Bakes 

Have you ever stumbled upon a hidden gem buried beneath layers of history and memories? That’s the adventure that awaits us as we archive the materials in the JLC’s lower level. What may seem like a simple task at first glance is, in fact, a treasure hunt through time and tradition. 

Founded in 1920, the JLC has been at the forefront for women in community service and empowerment for the city. The Junior League of Cincinnati has left an indelible mark on the city, from supporting local initiatives to fostering leadership skills among its members. For a long time, many materials awaited discovery in piles and boxes in the basement, cluttered and difficult to sort through. Before celebrating our Centennial in 2020, the organization of the archives was prioritized to honor our history in the region. Old photographs, event programs, and handwritten notes were like time capsules waiting to be opened. As we continue the archiving process, we can’t help but wonder what relics and memories are yet to be uncovered. 

Some may ask, “Why is archiving such a crucial endeavor?” For starters, it preserves the history and legacy of the Junior League of Cincinnati for future generations. It allows us to connect with our roots and appreciate the remarkable journey that has brought us to where we are today. As part of the Centennial celebration, the Junior League of Cincinnati was featured in a special exhibit called, The Junior League of Cincinnati: Making a Difference for 100 Years, at the Cincinnati Museum Center in August 2019, allowing the community to see the impact the JLC had over the past century. Furthermore, archiving helps us unearth valuable resources to inform and inspire our future endeavors. Past projects, thriving initiatives, and the lessons learned from challenges can all be gleaned from these artifacts, providing a roadmap for future generations of League members. 

The historic Columbia Center has been JLC’s home since 1988, providing a dedicated space for meetings, events, and even storage of archival material. But the lower level of the Columbia Center is more than just a storage space; it’s a treasure trove of history. And with the Columbia Center renovation completed in 2022, the lower level has been revitalized for greater use, featuring pieces of our past on the walls and signs from our Museum Center exhibit.  

Archiving the lower level may be a monumental task, but it’s also exciting. Each box we open, and every item we discover reveals a new chapter in our organization’s history. It’s a reminder of the incredible women who have dedicated their time and energy to better our community. As we sift through the past, we’ll be faced with decisions about what to preserve, digitize, and share with the world. It’s a process that requires care, respect, and a deep appreciation for our history. So, let’s embrace this adventure with enthusiasm, for in the depths, we’ll find the stories and memories that bind us together as Junior League members, both past and present. Together, we’ll ensure that our legacy continues to shine brightly in the future.