Spring 2014
Making history accessible

‘It also has helped me prove that the sports strategy should be studied and examined in a new way’

For UIndy’s Institute for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives’ digitization project—the first major project of the Indianapolis branch of History IT (see “Indianapolis, UIndy, and History IT,” sidebar)—the company made it a point to hire students from UIndy.

“We opened our digital division lab just down the street, so it’s very convenient for students who would like to work there to learn what we’re doing,” CEO Kristin Gwinn-Becker says, “as well as be a part of the rapid digitization process that will create your entire archive digitally within the next year.”

Sophomore computer science and physics major Hannah Vest was one of the first students hired for the Indianapolis branch. Hannah believes the partnership between the University of Indianapolis and History IT is significant.

“I think this is important because it is going to help the University get ahead of the curve of an ongoing trend of digitizing information to make it more accessible.”

The Colts connection

One of the most exciting parts of the project, and the first portion of the Archives to be digitized, records the history of bringing the Colts to Indianapolis. (Visit This section of the Mayoral Archives comprises items from the Hudnut and Lugar collections related to the city’s efforts to bring an NFL team to the city, which happened in 1984. The city used sports as an important component of its rebirth strategy. Christian Arvin is a senior history education major who has spent a semester as a researcher as part of the new partnership.

“I thought of Christian for a few reasons,” says Ted Franz, director of the Institute, who recommended him to HistoryIT. “He is organized, he’s a strong writer, he had already taken a Midwestern History class from me, and he has shown quite a bit of interest in sports history. It takes a special kind of student to be able to wade through primary documents and explore uncharted territory.”

For his senior capstone project, Christian wanted to combine his love of sports and his interest in Indianapolis’s history. With help from his adviser, Christian narrowed his project topic to the city’s sports development strategy. Christian then used the Institute’s archives to find the primary documents that could shape his argument and give insight to the atmosphere and emotions in Indianapolis in the early 1980s, when these exciting changes were taking place.

Digital trailblazer

christian-archives“I think the most exciting thing I have experienced with this project, Christian says, “is that because the archives are so new, I am one of the first people to really get to use a lot of the material in there. So I am kind of a trailblazer with the material. I was able to use a lot of these documents that help provide new insight into why certain decisions were made and the factors that influenced them. It also has helped me prove that the sports strategy should be studied and examined in a new way.”

Christian is confident that his work with the archives will benefit him in the future. He says the experience has allowed him to grow as a critical thinker—and he has really enjoyed his experiences with the Institute.

“It may be the history nerd in me, but I think it is very interesting to just go through the archives online and look for letters and other documents that help paint the picture and put me into the times to see what exactly was going on.”

While Hannah and Christian’s work with the archives will wrap up at the end of the semester, countless other students, professors, and researchers will use the many pieces of history being made available because of this partnership, and for years to come.

—Laura McGauhey ’14