By: AMANDA BARNETT
IU South Bend is branching out into the community by helping to offer a website for everyone interested in local civil rights and African American history, michianamemory.sjcpl.org.
The St. Joseph County Public Library has had the website available to the public since last spring. The new collection, which was officially launched in February, consists of civil rights and African American history.
A partnership between the IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center and the St. Joseph County Public Library, the website was made possible through the use of the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) Indiana Memory Digitalization Grant. Both research collections are available on the website.
For more than 10 years, the IU Civil Rights Heritage Center researched the collection made of mostly two dimensional photographs and documents.
“To my knowledge – for the first time ever – this is more African American and civil rights history in one place, downloadable for free than ever in our city’s history,” said George Garner, tours and collections coordinator for the IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center.
The Civil Rights Heritage Center is composed of professors and students working together to do research into civil rights and African American history, and they have a plan for the history they uncover.
“We want to use history so people can take action in the present and future,” Garner said. “How does the past inform our present and what can we do to use that to make change in the future?”
The Civil Right Heritage Center had been wanting to digitalize their collection of research for quite some time now. George Garner was approached by Joe Sipocz, the manager of local and family history services at the St. Joseph County Public Library, to partner with the library in creating the civil rights collection on the Michiana Memory website.
“Joe put this great opportunity in our laps,” Garner said. “You don’t get those opportunities too often. So it was perfect.”
Alison Stankrauff, archivist and associate librarian at the Franklin D. Schurz Library, also worked on the digitalization project. She did the administrative work for the LSTA Indiana Memory Digitalization Grant.
Together, Garner, Sipocz and Stankrauff made it possible for anyone in the world to view the civil rights and African American history collections on the website. The collections are available any time, searchable, downloadable and free.
The Civil Rights Heritage Center began doing research because not much research had been done into local civil rights and African American history.
“It was a surprise to people that there was this history of segregation here,” Garner said. “It wasn’t something they were expecting to be here but it was something that came up over and over again.”
“It’s all too often that sometimes the history of exclusion and segregation and marginalizing of minority communities translates to the history of the world as well. That history doesn’t often get told first, as well as often. So for this to be such a great tool is really important,” he said.
The Civil Rights Heritage Center’s research collections are kept in an office on the second floor of the Franklin D. Schurz Library, where the shelves are lined with pristine, white cardboard boxes. Each box houses a separate collection. Each individual artifact must be scanned and uploaded to the website.
The collections include three dimensional objects that are not currently on the website, but they may be in the future.
The Civil Rights Heritage Center plans to upload their oral interviews to the online mini-museum. They currently have over 80 oral interviews, which are documented stories of people who were active in the civil rights movement or involved in African American history in some way.
George Garner believes that IUSB is made a better campus by community outreach.
“History is complicated,” He said. “There are these things that happened… maybe we’re done with official segregation in this city – and that’s something to celebrate – but there are so many other things we’re not done with.”