Have you ever pondered the untold stories and unique histories behind homes and residential neighborhoods that are often invisible to modern inhabitants? Thanks to the work of professionals at Ball State University Libraries and Muncie Public Library, local residents can learn the research skills needed to explore archival records that uncover these fascinating, hidden pasts.
House History 101, a free community education program developed by Rebecca Torsell, Archivist for Architectural Records at Ball State University and Sara McKinley, Local History and Genealogy Supervisor for the Muncie Public Library, attracted 35 history enthusiasts and novice researchers alike across three offerings this past year. Attendees learned strategies to locate, search, and study historic maps, tax records, genealogical resources, and archival drawings held in Ball State University Libraries’ Drawings and Documents Archive and Muncie Public Library’s Local History and Genealogy Collection to compile detailed and fascinating histories of their homes and neighborhoods.
Held at Muncie’s Carnegie Library, the Cornerstone Center for the Arts, and the Minnetrista Cultural Center, the classes were well received by community members who appreciated the insights into skillsets and resources.
Beyond uncovering unique facts and stories, knowledge gained through this community research can have a meaningful impact on quality of place in Muncie. “Programs like House History 101 provide the tools for a community to discover their own heritage, to take pride in their homes and their history, and to create an awareness of how valuable it is to work towards preserving local heritage”, explained Torsell, one of the program’s co-facilitators.
“This program is incredibly valuable to the community,” added McKinley, who developed the program in collaboration with Torsell. “Just as genealogy gives us a renewed sense of personal identity, researching the history of a building helps us understand and appreciate where we live and work. Conducting this type of research also helps us make informed decisions regarding renovation, remodeling, landscaping, and restoration.”
House History 101 provides just one example of the many free community education programs offered by Ball State University Libraries throughout Muncie and Delaware County in collaboration with numerous other organizations including the E.B. Ball Center, the Delaware County Historical Society, and the Association for Lifelong Learners. Within the past year, the Libraries offered over 20 community education programs or presentations on topics ranging from web archiving, book binding, African American history in Indiana, and local geography.
The archival materials that support the research covered in House History 101 are available and accessible to the public year-round. The Drawings and Documents Archive contains over 130,000 original architectural drawings, landscape plans, blueprints, photographs, models, and building remnants from over 80 collections that tell the stories of Indiana’s buildings, sites, and structures. Located in the Architecture Building on the campus of Ball State University, the Archive provides public access and research services for all archives in the collection, and has also published over 3,500 drawings and photographs online through the Ball State University Digital Media Repository.
For Torsell, facilitating these educational offerings was one of the highlights of a busy and productive year advancing archival research, teaching, and community revitalization. “The most satisfying aspect of this program was seeing how people were becoming engaged,” she explained. “They would stay behind after the program waiting to talk to me or Sara McKinley, and some people would wait for up to 20 minutes to tell us their house stories and the things they’ve already uncovered about their homes.”
University Libraries and the Muncie Public Library hope to plan additional offerings of the Home History 101 course in the coming year to explore other topics related to architectural research and history that may interest a broad community audience.
For more information about participation in free educational programs through Ball State University Libraries or the Muncie Public Library, community members may contact the Drawings and Documents Archive at (765) 285-8441 or firstname.lastname@example.org or the Muncie Public Library at (765) 747-8200 or online at www.munciepubliclibrary.org/contact.