With tall ceilings, retractable shelves for optimal space-saving, and a temperature- and humidity-controlled atmosphere, the archives are the go-to for decades-old photographs, data and documentation of early IUPUI planning.
“Our job in the archives is to collect administrative, historical and legal records that have long-term or permanent value for the university,” said Stephen E. Towne, associate university archivist. “We do this for a variety of reasons — one, to know what the university has done in the past and build on the future. Two, people want to study this institution historically, so they come here to do research.”
The collection is always growing, with boxes of letters, memos, reports and blueprints received every year. The latest includes work from Harris Wofford, the former senator and close advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy.
The archives are open to IUPUI faculty, staff and students for research purposes. Just contact the office and get to work in the reading room.
More than 50 years
While IUPUI just celebrated its official 50th birthday on Jan. 24, programs go well before 1969. Records from the IU School of Medicine, the School of Health and Human Sciences, and the School of Nursing have roots reaching back more than 100 years ago.
Records recent and old are stored in boxes, which contain meticulously labeled manila folders. The aisles are organized in broad categories: IUPUI faculty, School of Medicine, and so on. The shelves open at the push of a button or the twist of a wheel.
Towne said most users of the archives seek old photographs. Early shots of campus, head shots of IUPUI’s founders and images that display IUPUI’s growth are popular. Some photos have amusing stories. An exterior of a small building, for example, could have an amazing story behind it. Take a small office that once stood at 1219 W. Michigan St., near what are now School of Dentistry parking lots.
“This is where the first IUPUI chancellor, Maynard Hine, had his offices for a while,” Towne explained. “It was a Curley’s Cleaners, and it had various nicknames — ‘Hine’s Quarters’ and then ‘The Ex-Chancellery’ because Hine occupied this building after he resigned as chancellor.”
William Plater, a longtime executive vice chancellor and dean of the faculties, left a lasting impression on IUPUI during his tenure from the 1980s into the 2000s. He transferred his copious records to the archives after his retirement in 2006. Plater’s legacy is still vital in the form of awards and honors. For events and other work, he likes to utilize the archives and reference his writings from 30 years ago.
“We have a wall here, about 300 feet of his stuff, along with his predecessors and successors,” Towne said. “We know what the contents are of these boxes, and we can find files very quickly. Bill Plater will contact us and say something like, ‘I remember a memo I wrote in 1989 about such and such, and I think I wrote it in October.’ Sure enough, we find it, and we send a copy to Bill Plater.”
While IUPUI is only 50 years young, the stories found in the archives are timeless.