Library’s Digital Collection now includes treasure trove of IPS images

ALSO: Help sought to identify photographs of city parks

Thousands of blueprints, drawings, photographs and other documents detailing the architectural environment of the Indianapolis Public School system are now available to view on The Indianapolis Public Library’s website.

The Indianapolis Public Schools Architecture Collection is the newest addition to the Library’s Digital Indy archive, which includes collections of documents, images, videos, and recordings that highlight local history. Digital Indy’s content may be printed or downloaded free for personal use, study, or research.

The new Indianapolis Public Schools Architecture Collection spans three centuries and includes documents from the 1890s through the 1970s. The educational priorities of various time periods are reflected in the design of buildings and how they were used. For example, school floor plans that highlight what was taught in classrooms during various time periods reveal rooms designated for clothing laboratory, cabinet making shop, and other subjects that are hard to find in modern schools.

“The architecture depicted in this collection is the physical manifestation of the complicated history of the IPS school system at large,” said Katie Farmer, Indianapolis Public Library’s digital projects coordinator. “The priorities of society and culture are reflected in how the educational system developed and evolved, and images of a coal storage room inside of a school can show how the technical aspects of the buildings have changed over the decades.”

The Digital Indy team worked with Russell McClure, AICP, Facilities Management Division, and Indianapolis Public Schools to select materials to include in the collection from more than 100 IPS elementary, high schools, and other properties. Then, the Digital Indy team worked with Easterseals Crossroads to digitize the materials. More than 5,000 blueprints, including architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and landscape technical drawings, were selected to form the core of this collection.

To supplement the architectural drawings, over 300 aerial and building photographs and more than 1,000 pages of other documentation were included to show the process from design through construction to functional building. Additional documents will be added during the coming months. 

“Since Indianapolis Public Library first reached out in 2016 with the vision of digitizing the archives and records of Indianapolis Public Schools, it has been an incredibly rewarding journey to see the results of the tireless efforts of the digitization team to bring over a century of IPS history from dusty storage rooms and long-forgotten filing drawers, and make them accessible to the world,” said Zachary J. Mulholland, executive director of operations for IPS. “I’m proud of the work that has been done by the many dedicated team members to make this vision a reality, and I’m thankful to those who have supported this important work financially and otherwise. The addition of the architectural records to the already impressive digital collection will significantly contribute to all those who are interested in learning about, understanding, and preserving the rich history of Indianapolis.”

The collection has been preserved in large part due to the IPS Facilities Management Division and will continue to be stored on IPS grounds. The digitization of these materials was made possible by a $1.8 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc., to The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation. IndyPL was awarded the grant to finish digitizing items for the already existing Indianapolis Firefighters’ Museum digital collection and to create new digital collections for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indianapolis Public Schools, and Indy Parks.

The Digital Indy collection includes all past editions of Urban Times.
The Indianapolis Public Library is asking the local community for help identifying parks that were photographed from the early 1900s up through the 1990s with little or no information attached to them. These photographs are a part of IndyPL’s Digital Indy collection, an online archive of documents, images, videos, and recordings that highlight local history.

The Indy Parks and Recreation Digital Indy collection features over 17,000 images and documents that depict the history of the city’s parks. The collection spans decades before the city parks system of Indianapolis was officially formed. More than 1500 photographs in this collection have little or no identifying information attached to them.

“For this project, we are looking for volunteers to help connect our unidentified or under-identified images to specific parks,” said Katie Farmer, digital projects coordinator with IndyPL. “These unidentified photos include park features and landscapes, and events such as guests cheering at football games and families decorating bikes with children. They provide a unique glimpse into the history of Indianapolis and the people who called our city home, and we would love to give proper attribution to the people and places in these photos. It’s a scavenger hunt through Indianapolis history.”

The collection has been preserved in large part due to the diligence of long-time Indy Parks and Recreation employee Rupert Daily, who recorded, saved, and organized thousands of photo negatives and slides when he worked for Indy Parks between 1945 and 1993. It features some of the city’s most notable and historic public assets including Garfield Park, Riverside Park, Holliday Park, Highland Park, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Park, Eagle Creek Park. The collection sheds light on the ways in which our parks have served the community, providing daycare, healthcare, public hygiene, public welfare, social clubs, and recreational activities.

PHOTO ABOVE: This photo of Calvin Fletcher School 8 dates to the 1930s. The structure at 520 Virginia Ave. now houses Calvin Fletcher Apartments.