U of Indy Unveils Enhanced Digital Mayoral Archives


Archives

History is fascinating.

When we moved my grandmother to a long-term care facility several years ago, our family was sorting through some of the boxes of keepsakes she had stored in her garage, including items from her childhood.

At the time, I had a young daughter and came across a pamphlet of advice for new parents from the 1950s. It was shocking to see the words of wisdom I was being given today versus the advice of even recent history. Later, we found cookbooks from the 1960s and 1970s containing recipes filled with way too many Jello and cream cheese combinations. Yuck. But fascinating!

If you’re a student of history – or even have a passing interest in learning about those who came before us – here’s something you’ll love: the University of Indianapolis recently unveiled a digital tool that enables anyone to access information about Indianapolis civic history.

The “Digital Backpacks” collection is a free, interactive feature where users can create folders with items collected during the administrations of Indianapolis mayors back to 1968, including an emphasis on sports history.

“The Digital Mayoral Archives enhances the University’s ability to extend its reach beyond the campus,” said Institute Director Edward Frantz. “By connecting to the history of our city, University students also are able to comprehend the way in which the past interacts with the present.”

”We believe this will become a significant teaching tool in Indiana and an important resource for political scholars and armchair historians around the world,” added Frantz, a history professor at the University of Indianapolis.

The backpacks feature is an enhancement to the Digital Mayoral Archives created as part of an ongoing partnership with digital history leader HistoryIT, a Maine-based company that leverages technology to improve access to historical archives. In 2013, HistoryIT began the process of digitizing more than 600 file boxes full of documents, images, recordings and other artifacts from the administrations of Indianapolis mayors Richard Lugar, William Hudnut and Stephen Goldsmith, and from the records of Indiana politician L. Keith Bulen.

Today, more than 400,000 items, including previously confidential documents, are available online. Nearly 23,000 users have logged on and searched the Digital Mayoral Archives.