Partnership puts city history online


Mayoral-Archive-AnouncementLong-hidden gems of Indianapolis history have been unveiled to the world, and a once-empty retail space is now a bustling, tech-driven operation with a dozen employees, thanks to a partnership between UIndy and a Maine-based consultancy and software development firm. HistoryIT is the innovative young company contracted to digitize and catalog the University’s Mayoral Archives, a vast trove of documents, images, recordings, and other materials from former Indianapolis mayors and political leaders that dates to the 1960s. The University is providing the office space, an easy walk from campus, to give the firm a base for courting Indiana clients and to create opportunities for related academic programs and student internships.The deal was announced in October with the online release of a special collection of photos and documents titled “Bringing the Colts to Indianapolis,” and a celebratory campus event in which former mayors Richard Lugar and William Hudnut and Indianapolis Colts COO Pete Ward reminisced about the drive to establish the city as a sports capital and secure its own NFL franchise.

As the process of scanning, photographing, meta-tagging, and indexing archival items continued, more features were added to the web interface. “Unigov: From City to Metropolis” explores the controversial consolidation of city and county government that began in 1969 and is now credited with elevating Indianapolis’s profile. “The Making of a Mayor” introduces viewers to Lugar’s pre-Senate tenure as mayor of Indianapolis, with items that include streaming audio of a radio and TV jingle from his 1967 campaign, as well as video of his keynote address at the 1972 Republican National Convention, where he was introduced by California governor Ronald Reagan. The convention video is an especially interesting piece of political history, said Edward Frantz, director of the Mayoral Archives and associate professor of history at UIndy. “For many Americans, this would be the first time to see Dick Lugar on a national stage,” Frantz said. “This is the kind of material that demonstrates the incredible richness of the collection and why we’re so glad to be unlocking these treasures, which had been confined to archival boxes.”

Lugar-Unigov-rocketThe digitization process, funded primarily by a $2-million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., is proceeding at a rate of 15,000 items per week. By late this year, the HistoryIT team will have processed an estimated 1 million-plus items donated to the University by former mayors and UIndy trustees Lugar, Hudnut, and Goldsmith, as well as material from longtime local GOP boss L. Keith Bulen. The archives are expected eventually to include the files of mayors Bart Peterson and Greg Ballard. The story told by the archives is nothing less than the reinvention of an American city, and the details will be available online for easily searchable viewing by students, policymakers, researchers, and armchair historians—in Indianapolis and around the world. “This relationship, with its mutual benefits to the community and everyone involved, is an example of the type of business collaboration that the University of Indianapolis plans to develop around all of its academic disciplines,” UIndy President Robert Manuel said. “The concept is central to our role as a community anchor. “With the resources of our Colleges of Health Sciences and Arts & Sciences, our Schools of Business and Education, and our centers for education reform and aging studies, we can attract new development and enhance the quality of life in our part of the city, while also enriching the educational experience for our students.”

Browse and learn more about UIndy’s Mayoral Archives at

Photos: Top photo, from left: Senator Richard Lugar, Indianapolis Colts COO Pete Ward, and HistoryIT CEO Kristen Gwinn-Becker at the October news conference.

This framed caricature, presented as a birthday gift to then-Mayor Richard Lugar in 1971, suggests that the Unigov consolidation was vaulting him and the city to national attention.