News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 11, 2012

GENEALOGY: Survey breaks down Indiana historical collections

Tamie Dehler
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — Back in 2008, the Indiana Historical Society sent out a survey to the various custodians of Indiana historical heritage collections throughout the state. The goal was to find out what kinds of items are housed in these various archives and to assess their condition. Two hundred and forty groups completed and returned the survey with information on their collections. The breakdown in type of group was: 72 entities functioned as archives or libraries, 14 were genealogy groups, 50 were historical societies, 97 operated museums, and 17 functioned as preservation societies. (Some had dual roles.) The survey asked these organizations to describe their stewardship practices — in other words, the management and care of their collections.

The results of the effort are found in the Hoosier Heritage Alliance Connecting to Collections survey report. One finding was that nearly 50 percent of the responding entities “do not have a complete listing of items in their collection.”  Eighty-three percent of these custodial organizations “do not know the condition of items in their care.”  In addition, “the majority have no policies for storage, preservation, pest management, condition documentation, disaster planning, or the security of the collection.” The survey further indicated that “more than 80 percent of Indiana’s heritage collecting organizations do not have a conservation plan.”

The report goes on to say that 59 percent of the organizations “self-identified staff training as a need [and] a majority of Indiana organizations utilize volunteer staff for conservation and preservation needs rather than an external provider, paid conservator or collections.” Lack of funding was cited as a key issue in these organizations’ ability to provide their staff with “training in the proper conservation, preservation, and management of their collections.”

 An average or typical heritage collection in Indiana consists of 32 percent books, 20 percent objects, 12 percent unbound papers, 12 percent photographs, 8 percent archaeological objects, 5 percent textiles, 4 percent art objects, 3 percent natural science specimens, and 1 percent each of moving images, recorded sound, digital materials, and ethnographic objects.

This report shows that in a time of tight money and funding cuts, Indiana’s collections of historical heritage materials is underfunded and needs more care and attention. Many of these entities operate with government funding or grants in addition to private funding through memberships or admission fees. Remember them when you vote and when you donate.


• Don’t forget to attend the Wabash Valley Genealogy Society’s March meeting Monday, starting at the new earlier time of 6:15 p.m. in the Vigo County Public Library. Monday’s program is “Dying to Help Out, Too — Researching Death Records,” to be presented by Ron Darrah. The meeting is open to the public.

• For WVGS members, there will be a tour of the Special Collections Department in ISU’s Cunningham Memorial Library from 1 to 3 p.m. March 31. Cinda May, the chair of Special Collections, will conduct the tour. To attend, please register at the WVGS website.

• Beginning genealogy classes will be offered on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Vigo County Public Library, starting on March 28 and lasting through May 2. The class will be limited to 30 participants and requires registration. The cost for the class is $15. To register, go to under events, or call Linda Malooley at (812) 238-2415.