INDIANAPOLIS — Since the mid-2000s the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library has been digitizing its archives and making them available online at indypl.org.
There are an Indianapolis postcard collection, oral histories of the Irvington area, and recordings of poetry from James Whitcomb Riley, among many others. Perhaps most celebrated of all are old Indianapolis Public School yearbooks.
"People love that stuff, looking for Mom and Dad's picture or Grandma and Grandpa's and doing genealogy," said Pamela Swaidner, IMCPL's manager of cataloging and digital projects. "That stuff is really popular."
She initially wasn't sold on the latest digital collection though. When Chris Marshall, who's in charge of IMCPL's special collections at the Central Library, suggested they digitize old newsletters from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Swaidner figured they'd be mundane. She changed her mind once she saw copies of "Activities of the Chamber of Commerce" and "The Bulletin."
"I guess we didn't realize what the Chamber's newsletters were," Swaidner said. "They were such a wonderful snapshot of Indianapolis during that time period."
The collection includes newsletters from 1921 to '42, a period of great upheaval that started just after World War I and included the Great Depression and World War II.
"It covers a lot of ground and hits a lot of interesting highlights in Indianapolis history," Swaidner said. "This time period was really representative of change, not just in the growth of Indianapolis but what was going on nationally and how it affected Indianapolis."
While the Chamber newsletters include plenty of organizational fare, there are also many photos and articles on what are now city landmarks like Union Station and the Indiana War Memorial Plaza. Now-famous writers including Booth Tarkington and Meredith Nicholson also contributed to the newsletters.