UIndy collaborates with technology firm to establish lab near campus, digitize Mayoral Archives, create internships & bring jobs to the Southside
November 9 was a day of reminiscing about Indianapolis history, celebrating the city’s progress, and announcing a new UIndy business partnership that promises benefits for students, faculty, and the entire community. President Robert Manuel and Kristin Gwinn-Becker, founder of the HistoryIT consultancy and software development firm, were joined by former mayors Richard Lugar and William Hudnut, among others, in announcing the University’s collaboration with Gwinn-Becker’s Maine-based company. The company has established a satellite Digital Innovation Lab near campus, where it will digitize UIndy’s vast Mayoral Archives, putting four decades of Indianapolis history online, creating hands-on learning and internship opportunities for students, and bringing more than 20 new jobs and a new corporate presence to the city’s south side.
HistoryIT collaboration is key
“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,” 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 enrich-ing the educational experience for our students.” The Mayoral Archives include documents, images, recordings, physical artifacts, and other items from the administrations of former mayors Lugar, Hudnut, Stephen Goldsmith, and Bart Peterson, all former University trustees. The collection, which essentially details the reinvention of an American city, occupies more than 600 file boxes stored at Krannert Memorial Library. By late 2014, however—thanks to HistoryIT’s innovative process of digitally scanning, tagging, and indexing archives—the entire collection of more than a million items will be available online for easily searchable viewing by students, researchers, policymakers, and armchair historians alike.
Bringing the Colts to Indy
The first portion of the Mayoral Archives to be digitized is now an online feature that was revealed at the announcement. “Bringing the Colts to Indianapolis” comprises hundreds of items from the Hudnut and Lugar collections pertaining to the city’s efforts to land an NFL team and generally build Indianapolis’s image as a sports capital, including photos, promotional materials, and former confidential documents. The Colts were represented at the UIndy announcement by Pete Ward, the team’s chief operating officer. In 1984, he’d been charged with supervising the move to Indianapolis, when the staff hurriedly loaded Mayflower trucks for the overnight exodus from Baltimore. Ward recalled when he first heard the news: “Jim Irsay called me into his office and said, ‘My dad says we’re moving to Indianapolis.’ I said, ‘Wow. When?’ And he said, ‘In a couple hours.’” “To all you young entrepreneurs out there,” Ward added, “if you relocate your business, don’t do it the way we did it.”
Lugar and Hudnut also drew laughs when Manuel asked them to reflect on two items from the archives: the text of Lugar’s 1971 speech announcing the Market Square Arena construction project, and a 1984 letter from Hudnut to Jim’s father, Robert Irsay, urging him to accept the invitation from Indianapolis. The mayors noted that a couple of their signature accomplishments—the arena for Lugar and the RCA Dome for Hudnut—have since been replaced by newer facilities. “I still have a picture of Market Square Arena in my office,” Lugar said. “Life moves on.” “We still have the Colts,” Hudnut noted, “and by golly, they’re winning.” Former UIndy presidents Beverley Pitts, who oversaw the establishment of the Mayoral Archives, and Gene E. Sease, who built key relationships that led to UIndy’s acquisition of the materials, also attended the press conference.
Economic development, student engagement
The digitization process, funded primarily by a $2-million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., is only part of the initial two-year agreement between UIndy and HistoryIT. The University
has provided the leased space near campus where HistoryIT is establishing its second Digital Innovation Lab, not only to execute the current project but also to serve as a Midwestern hub for product and client development. Now, in a long-empty retail space at Madison and Hanna avenues, the company is hiring more than 20 local employees this fall, including some student part-timers, and diversifying the area’s business base. Meanwhile, UIndy and HistoryIT are finalizing an agreement to share revenue from new business generated through the collaboration. “The Mayoral Archives project alone is a big win for my company, and the broader partnership is a key element of our national growth strategy,” Gwinn-Becker said. “Our Indianapolis facility will allow us to digitize and make searchable a great number of Midwest-based collections—for politicians, businesses, government papers, organizational collections, and even for families.” The proximity and involvement of UIndy students and faculty is an added value, she noted. “We are thrilled to be able to draw on the expertise at UIndy, as well as to provide training and professional development opportunities for students and new graduates.”
For UIndy students, the agreement includes the development of a paid internship program and the integration of HistoryIT operations into the University curriculum in such programs as History, Political Science and Pre-Law, as well as the new Digital Media Studies program being developed by the departments of Communication, English, Art & Design, and Computer Science. “This partnership will give our students access to archival materials that no other researchers have seen, enabling them to make original contributions to the scholarship on our city’s history and politics,” said Jennifer Drake, dean of UIndy’s College of Arts and Sciences. “It also will advance the work of our new Professional Edge Center by enabling students to connect their interest in the liberal arts to cutting-edge technologies and potential career paths.”