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We just celebrated National Archives Month at the Indiana Historical Society! Did you know that IHS has some of Indiana’s greatest historical treasures?
If you visit the William H. Smith Memorial Library located on the second floor (eye level with our hanging clocks) you will find yourself in a room with tables, chairs, books and a reference desk like most other libraries. But in this library, you cannot check out books and return them later. Our library preserves primary sources such as letters, documents, maps and photographs specifically on Indiana history and the Old Northwest territory. We have more than 5,500 processed manuscript collections, 1,550 cataloged maps, 3,500 pieces of sheet music, 1.7 million photographs and 45,000 cataloged printed items. These items are all organized and carefully preserved to make up our archival repository.
So where do we keep these resources? Most of the collections actually live outside of the publicly accessible area in the third floor “stacks.” Librarians and archivists then pull items by request and bring them down into our reading room for patrons to use. The main goal of archives is to preserve history and make it available to the public, so anyone is free to come learn from these wonderful resources.
To get a taste of what is in our collections, you can browse our library catalog for a topic that interests you. Some of our most requested items include county histories, Civil War documents, and historic business records.
Once a collection item is requested, it is brought downstairs to the reading room located behind the reference desk. Patrons can bring a laptop and pencil and paper into the room but food, beverages and pens need to stay behind. These precautions protect the fragile materials and ensure that the collections will be available for generations to come.