Indiana University is home to some very well-known and heavily-used collections, including the Herman B Wells Library, the Lilly Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts, other campus libraries, the collections of the Eskenazi Museum of Art, and the Kinsey Institute collections.
More recently, IU’s collections have grown through the bold and visionary $15 million Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI) that President Michael A. McRobbie first announced in his State of the University Address in 2013. Its ambitious goal was to digitize some 325,000 of IU’s most valuable, and in many cases unique, time-based audio and video objects as recommended by the faculty, and to do this by the IU Bicentennial. The digitization of these legacy collections ensures that all of this material will be made available to the broadest possible audience and that it is preserved in perpetuity. In this sense, it fully maximizes the value of all these collections to the IU community, the state, and beyond in the digital age. MDPI has been a great success. In this, IU’s bicentennial year, 99 percent of these time-based media objects—over 320,000—have been digitized, almost completing its original goal.
In June 2017, President McRobbie announced the second phase of MDPI: a $12 million project to digitize, and hence preserve, 25,000 of the most important films in IU’s extensive and internationally renowned film collection by the end of 2020. That digitization effort is now more than 50 percent complete.
All of Indiana University’s collections represent the investment, over many decades, of the people of the state of Indiana, the federal government, foundations, and businesses in research and scholarship at IU, as well as the generosity of donors who have entrusted vital collections to IU. The new vast amounts of born-digital data being generated today across nearly all disciplines represent their continuing investment.
But IU has many more collections of material objects—more than 200—across all campuses, with most being on the Bloomington campus. These include not only many significant art, cultural, and historical collections, but also a vast array of unique specimens that are part of IU’s 94 natural science collections ranging from astronomy to zooarchaeology. These collections support research, scholarship, teaching, public outreach, and historic preservation for the university and the broader community. These collections range in size, content, and use. Some have not been adequately inventoried, but it is estimated that, including the holdings of University Libraries, they contain more than 50 million individual material objects.
Historically, most of these collections have operated within individual departments or administrative units on each of IU’s campuses, with little to no attention from the university and with few university-wide policies governing them. As a result, and through no fault of those who oversee and curate them, a number of these collections are under-developed, under-utilized, and in need of more professional curation and maintenance.
Together, these collections constitute a resource of immense scholarly, educational, and cultural importance for the IU community. They hold enormous potential to open up new opportunities for study, scholarship, and exhibitions, and to thus become even more important to IU’s research and teaching missions.
There could be no better examples than the three recent tragedies described above of the enormous importance of IU’s collections and the need for a coherent university-wide approach as to how they are managed, organized, and housed in the best way to ensure both their most effective use in research and teaching within and without IU, and to ensure they have the specific care and preservation each requires.
In his 2017 State of the University address, President McRobbie created a new position—Executive Director of University Collections—and launched a sustained effort to ensure that all of IU’s collections are properly housed, maintained, utilized, and curated; more closely linked to IU’s research and teaching missions; and more widely accessible to all members of the IU community, scholars everywhere, and the public.
In the two years since the President’s call to action, substantial progress has been made towards enhancing the stewardship, accessibility, and use of IU’s collections. These initiatives include:
- Completing the Auxiliary Library Facility 3 (ALF-3) storage facility where many of IU’s most precious collections are stored in a climate-controlled, secure facility;
- Completing the extensive renovations of the Eskenazi Museum of Art, supported by the generosity of Sid and Lois Eskenazi;
- Renovating the Lilly Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts, supported by the generosity of Lilly Endowment Inc.;
- Establishing a new IU Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (IUMAA) from the existing collections of the Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology and the Mathers Museum of World Culture as well as completely renovating and remodeling the building in which they are housed, supported by the State of Indiana and private donors;
- Establishing a new Collections, Teaching, Research, and Exhibition Center (C-TREC), to be housed in the historic McCalla School building which is being completely renovated, supported by the State of Indiana;
- Renovating the Geology Building which houses the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and its collections as well as developing new facilities for the Indiana Geological & Water Survey (IGWS), which together are home to more than 75 collections on the Bloomington campus, supported by the State of Indiana; and
- Renovating the Anderson Library and Calumet Regional Archives at IU Northwest which houses the history of Indiana’s Lake and Porter counties.
IU has launched a new website, collections.iu.edu, that for the first time ever, begins to bring together IU’s collections under one public-facing portal. This will continue to be developed to eventually provide comprehensive details on all of IU’s major collections (see III below).
IU’s first Executive Director of University Collections, Heather Calloway, was hired in August 2018. In her first 14 months on the job, she and her colleagues have contributed to the above initiatives and also worked to, among other activities:
- identify all of the collections housed at Indiana University (222, up from the 50 originally identified);
- meet with all of the collections managers across the university;
- establish a collections advisory council (see Appendix A);
- identify security and other protection issues affecting IU’s most significant collections;
- begin the process of valuing IU’s most significant collections;
- plan and implement a traveling collection in celebration of IU’s Bicentennial;
- address urgent issues with specific collections; and
- establish the office and hire two additional staff members.