To the untrained eye, those 600-some boxes in storage at Krannert Memorial Library hardly merit a second glance. To a professional historian, however, they represent a challenge that’s hard to ignore—a treasure waiting to be mined.
“We have some idea of the scope, and it’s breathtaking,” says Dr. Edward “Ted” Frantz (left), newly announced interim director of the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives. “These are unique, untapped materials, so it’s that much more intriguing to think about what we can do with them.”
Still under development through a $7.5-million capital campaign, the institute is founded on a vast collection of documents, images, and other materials from the Indianapolis mayoral administrations of Richard Lugar, William Hudnut, Stephen Goldsmith, and Bart Peterson, all current or former University trustees. The contents, which also include materials from longtime political powerbroker L. Keith Bulen, span a four-decade era of bold leadership that shaped a world-class city capable of hosting a Super Bowl to rave reviews.
University officials envision an institute that educates and inspires new generations of local, state, and national leaders. Administrators hope to acquire more archival material and create a hub for research, teaching, and public conversation, with space for events and collaborative activities as well as physical and online resources for students, scholars, city planners, and community leaders to explore the issues facing today’s urban centers. When housed in an expanded, renovated, technologically updated Krannert Memorial Library—its first major upgrade since opening in 1977—the institute could serve as a new public front door for community visitors.
Frantz, who joined the UIndy faculty in 2002, is an associate professor in the Department of History & Political Science, specializing in regional and national political history. Holding a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University and a PhD in history from the University of Wisconsin, he is often contacted for news interviews and recently published a book, The Door of Hope: Republican Presidents and the First Southern Strategy, 1877–1933. UIndy Provost and Executive Vice President Deborah Balogh said Frantz was a clear choice to help launch the institute.
“Ted brings not only the relevant expertise but also great enthusiasm for this venture,” Balogh said. “He understands the value of these materials for the city as well as the impact this center could have regionally and nationally.”
Local history, national relevance
The initial collection alone will be a crucial resource for anyone studying the history of Indianapolis and its evolution from the late 1960s to the present day, including such milestones as the establishment of Unigov, school desegregation, the hosting of the Pan Am Games, the courting of the Colts, and the construction of Circle Centre mall and White River State Park.
“From the big events to the lasting landmarks that have defined the city, it’s all in there,” Frantz says. “And then there are the nuts and bolts of what mayors and civic leaders have to deal with—infrastructure, police, parks and recreation.”
The archives include not only official documents and correspondence but also personal notes, artifacts, photos, and audio and video recordings that bring the past to life. Frantz hopes soon to begin supplementing the collection with oral histories gathered from the many former officeholders, government staffers, civic and business leaders, political players, and others who played roles in the city’s development. “This won’t be a repository of brittling paper documents,” he says.
Beyond the local interest, however, is a far broader potential audience that sees Indianapolis as a case study in innovative government and a certain brand of modern conservatism, its development spurred by public-private partnerships and a deliberate strategy to market the city as a sports capital. “It’s a local story, but it has national implications,” Frantz says. “We have a story here that will resonate not just with people who are interested in this city or this institution.”
The task ahead
Much work remains, however, before that story can be uncovered and shared. University trustees and other supporters already have pledged more than $1 million toward the goal of $7.5 million to cover the institute’s establishment and initial years of operation. The total includes an estimated $1 million to catalog the materials, digitize them for electronic and online access, and guarantee their preservation; $3 million in endowments to fund basic programming and operations, including a director’s salary, a visiting scholar position, and an annual symposium; and $3.5 million for renovation, construction, and other facilities costs, which will include a new multistory atrium entrance on the north side of the renovated library. Once established, the institute will provide a new focus for UIndy’s master’s program in history as well as a foundation for launching a master’s program in political science. Frantz imagines a place where UIndy students can see professional scholars at work and join in “the detective work of discovering the past.”
“I think this will become a crown jewel for the University,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for a professor of history to be involved in.”
More information on UIndy’s plans for the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives is available at http://www.uindy.edu/giving/civic-leadership.