What’s The Public Book?


THE PUBLIC BOOK is a personal record of the Greater Columbus community in 1992.

The Book was created to encourage grassroots involvement in the city’s commemoration

of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ encounter with the New World

by inviting local residents to see their own lives as history.  

Its preservation now means that future generations can draw insight and inspiration

from its pages--into what it was like to be alive in a mid-sized city in the heart of America

during the closing years of the 20th century.

The Book’s 144 pages are actually fabric panels, 22” x 24” bound,

conceived and created by individuals, families, groups and organizations around themes encompassing communal, cultural, and family history, contemporary life and issues, even hopes and fears for the future.  Making the pages of fabric rather than of paper not only added to the Book’s ultimate permanence; it also made possible a very broad range of techniques not possible  or at least difficult with paper, from traditional sewing, weaving, quilting, and decorative stitchery

to application of new acrylic fabric paints and pens and even

photo-transfer technology directly to fiber.

Begun in 1987 under the aegis of the Calligraphy Guild of Columbus,

THE PUBLIC BOOK soon gained broad community support.

  Formal collaboration with Columbus Metropolitan Libraries as co-sponsor early in 1990  was pivotal, providing an especially effective network for spreading word of the project throughout Central Ohio, while the system’s many branch libraries, together with those of its sister library systems in the Greater Columbus metropolitan area, hosted workshops

that helped inspire greater interest generally in the rich, though often taken for granted,

traditions that surround us daily and make all of us a part of history.

Later, these same libraries provided valuable exhibit spaces throughout the city

for the finished pages to be viewed by a great many more individuals than

would have been possible with a single-site exhibition. 

Successive grants from the Greater Columbus Arts Council and The Columbus Foundation provided seed money and, later, assistance with special phases of the project,

including preservation of the pages and creating an oral history archive. 

A Leo Yassenoff Foundation grant made possible professionally photographing

the completed pages as well as documenting groups as

they gathered to work on their pages for the project. 

By far the greatest support came from the community itself, however,

in the many contributions of money, materials, and in-kind and volunteer services,

artistic as well as technical, from a broad range of area businesses and professionals.

To all those who thus left their mark on the Book’s creation, we extend profound thanks.

Our appreciation runs very deep.


was officially recognized as a Registered Project of the Quincentenary

by both the Columbus and the National Quincentennial Commissions.

Unique in the world, the Book now leaves a community legacy through which

subsequent generations will be able to appreciate the diversity of interests

as well as  cultural, ethnic, and artistic traditions that converged here

in the heart of Ohio to create a vibrant American city.                                                           

© 1991 The Public Book  

Ann Alaia Woods

Creator, Director

The Public Book: Letters to our Great-Great-Grandchildren