OHIO Archives

Ohio University Libraries Archives & Special Collections

The Updated Ryan Room Exhibit

By Alex Hines, BA ‘24, History, Co-Curator and Mahn Center Archives Exhibition Assistant 


Since the Fall of 2022, the Cornelius Ryan Room at the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections on the 5th floor of Alden Library has been in the process of being updated. At this time, the work to fully update the exhibit has been completed and final preparations are being made for a School of Journalism co-sponsored opening reception on June 6th, the 79th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy invasion. The process of updating the exhibit has been a labor of passion for the source material and a deep respect towards the individuals who are represented within it. If you have followed from my first blog post from November, you will remember that there were many questions considered leading up to the update process. With those questions in mind, join me in reflecting on the last two semesters’ experiences! 

The Old Ryan Room 

Ever since the accession of the Cornelius Ryan Collection of World War II Papers by the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections in 1981, it was requested that an exhibition be created to display a small percentage of the thousands of manuscripts associated with the Ryan collection. From the original exhibition from 1981 to the present day, the Ryan Room experienced a handful of updates; all of them exhibiting items exclusively from the Cornelius Ryan Collection. The previous exhibition, which had been in place for 10-20 years, was the focus of my last blog post and it was here that I was brought in by the Manuscripts Archivist to aid in the update of the next form of the exhibition. The previous exhibition featured images and questionnaires from across the collection, and highlighted Ryan’s process of researching and writing his military history books, The Longest Day, The Last Battle, and A Bridge Too Far.

The New Ryan Room 

Visitors to the updated Ryan Room will be brought on a journey into the minds of those individuals who lived through, survived, fought in, and died during the massive global conflict that was World War II. Here, the human side of the war is on immediate display for all to see. World War II was not a simple conflict of good versus evil, but a deeply complex and morally conflicting war which impacted nearly every community across the globe. Walking through the exhibition, one will be drawn into the intimate thoughts and experiences of those who were directly involved in the events.  

wide angle view of new exhibition with large display cases on the right and left walls, a flat display case in the center, and a desk and large map at the back of the room.
View of the updated Ryan Room exhibition

In the Normandy invasion display, visitors can read about and follow maps discussing General Norman Cota and the fight to get off Omaha Beach and further inland. Across the room in the Local Connections display, the story of Athens own Margaret Maslin, better known as the “Magazine Lady,” is told. Close observation by visitors will reveal connections across the various parts of the exhibit, mirroring the real-life connections between these historical events. Those who look closely at the Top-Secret maps of Omaha Beach in the map case will notice the Viervielle Draw, which connects back to D-Day and the mission of General Cota. The involvement of War Correspondents, as discussed in their display, is crucial across the entire exhibit as their reports on the war aided in the understanding of the conflict and kept those at home informed about how the soldiers in Europe and the Pacific were advancing.  

Below: Sneak-peak images from around the new Ryan Room Exhibit 

During the summer the Ryan Room and the Mahn Center Reading Room are open by appointment only. Appointments can be made by contacting Manuscripts Archivist Greta Suiter, suiter@ohio.edu or by filling out a research request form through the Mahn Center website. The Ryan Room will be open during the semester the same times as the reading room (generally M-F 9-12 and 1-4).