UIndy civic institute receives $2M boost


Lilly Endowment provides startup funds for city archive project

Heartland-Mayors-107A $2-million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. is helping the University of Indianapolis to begin cataloging four decades of city history to form the foundation of the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives. Former mayors (and University trustees) Richard G. Lugar, William Hudnut, Stephen Goldsmith, and Bart Peterson have entrusted UIndy with a vast collection of documents, images, recordings, and other materials from their mayoral administrations, an era of innovative leadership that has made Indianapolis a national model of urban revitalization.

The period includes such historic developments as the formation of Unigov, the birth of White River State Park and Circle Centre Mall, the hosting of the 1987 Pan American Games, the construction of major sports venues, and the creation of BioCrossroads. The grant is the largest single contribution to date in the University’s $7.5-million capital campaign to equip, staff, and launch the institute. “Now we can dig in and begin unearthing the buried treasures of this collection,” says UIndy Associate Professor Edward Frantz, the historian serving as interim director of the institute. “Our city has an amazing story to share. That story needs to be told in its full historical complexity,” Frantz says.

Archivist digs in

It’s a big job, but someone has to do it, and that person is Mark Vopelak. One of just 14 certified archivists in Indiana, Vopelak joined the UIndy staff in January as head archivist and curator of the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives. The University must catalog and digitize the archives, including several hundred boxes of documents, photos, recordings, and physical artifacts. Vopelak and Frantz want to make portions of the collection available online as soon as reasonably possible in order to generate more interest among scholars and the general public, as well as people who have materials and memories to contribute to the archives.

“This is going to be far more accessible and interactive than anyone can imagine at this point,” Frantz says. The archives will then be the centerpiece of the institute, envisioned as a hub for research, teaching, and special events, with resources for students, visiting scholars, planners, and community leaders to explore the issues facing today’s cities.

Institute builds connections

The institute also will enable the University to expand its academic programs, develop symposia, build connections with local schools, and host public conversations. Such conversations will take various forms, such as the April 2 Building Heartland Cities event that brought former Indianapolis mayor William Hudnut III and current mayors Karl Dean of Nashville, Tenn., and Michael Coleman of Columbus, Ohio, to campus to discuss revitalizing urban environments for the 21st century. Building Heartland Cities was presented by Indiana Humanities and UIndy’s ICLMA, in partnership with the National League of Cities. UIndy Trustee Carolyn Coleman, director of federal relations for the National League of Cities and former deputy mayor of Indianapolis, moderated the discussion of the importance of education, transportation, tourism, public and private investment, and other factors in a city’s vitality. In partnership with Indiana Humanities, the Institute will host its first annual Fairbanks Symposium on Civic Leadership October 8 and 9. The symposium is made possible by a grant to the institute from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.

Contact: Edward Frantz, Interim Director, at 317-788-4906, efrantz@uindy.edu