It’s the largest repository of historic design artifacts in Indiana and, thanks to the gift of a former faculty member, its future is brighter than ever.
Ball State’s Drawings and Documents Archives contains more than 130,000 original architecture, landscape, planning, and engineering projects, including drawings, photographs, documents, models, and building remnants.
A financial gift from its first director, Professor Emeritus of Architecture Andrew (“Andy”) Seager, will ensure that the archives will continue to inspire the design ideas of generations of Ball State students and provide guidance to historic preservations efforts across the state.
Located inside the R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning and jointly administered with University Libraries, the archives is getting a new name, too: The Andrew R. Seager Archives of the Indiana Built Environment, a Division of University Libraries.
Seager explained his motive for the gift.
“To know the archives is being taken care of was my main concern. Having my name on it wasn’t. But I’m thankful for the opportunity to continue to support it.”
The archives have long served as an essential resource for design professionals who are remodeling or rehabilitating an existing property. For example, archived drawings of the legendary Walker Theater in Indianapolis helped designers improve backstage areas and acoustics inside that building.
“We are essentially preserving the legacy of planners and designers for the built environment throughout Indiana,” CAP Dean David Ferguson said. “Firms and practicing design professionals continue to look to us.”
One reason the archive collection is so widely helpful is its expansive online presence.
Through ongoing collaboration within University Libraries, the repository has digitized more than 30 collections. They are downloadable through Ball State University Libraries’ Digital Media Repository, described with a robust set of subject headings to facilitate precise searching.
Included in the online archive are records of the Pierre and Wright Indianapolis architectural firm, the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation, and Edwin A. Gibson, the first Black architect registered in the state of Indiana.
Seager began his tenure at Ball State in 1968, teaching courses in design, architectural history, and historic preservation. He became archives director in 1979.
Giving With Confidence
The archives started rather inadvertently.
As designers retired and firms closed, artifacts needed a new home. Seager’s colleague, Associate Professor Michael Tomlan, began collecting them, storing them initially in closets in the CAP building and then in the North Quad basement. When the addition to the CAP building was completed in 1980, the materials were moved to rooms specially designed to hold them, and also to an annex off campus.
Tomlan departed Ball State in 1979. Seager inherited the collections and began organizing them into a proper archives. He recalls some initial trepidation due to his lack of archival training.
“I agreed to do it and I’m glad I did. It was interesting, and I loved being an archivist.”
Seager’s gift will support both an endowment fund for general maintenance and a renovation fund for future improvements and possible expansion.
Seager said he was confident that current archivist Rebecca Torsell, a University Libraries employee, will manage the gift wisely.
“Rebecca is doing a fantastic job,” he said. “I just want to support what she’s doing.”
Torsell said Seager’s donation is a pivotal indicator of the value of the archives in Indiana’s design community.
“This archives wouldn’t exist without Andy,” Torsell said. “No one else would have taken on the amount of work that he took on. For him to come back and donate like he did … I just thank him so much.”