Wednesday, February 25, 2015

RAO Hot Topics Blog Series: Michiana Memory

By: Alison Stankrauff, Indiana University South Bend, RAO Steering Committee Member

In May 2014, Indiana University South Bend Archivist and Associate Librarian, Alison Stankrauff collaborated with Joe Sipocz, Manager of Local & Family History Services at the St. Joseph County Public Library, and George Garner, Tours and Collections Coordinator of the IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center. They worked together and were awarded a 2014 Indiana Memory Digitization Grant for their project proposal entitled St. Joseph County African American History Collection. 

As part of this project, the website Michiana Memories ( was created.  

The two institutions, Indiana University South Bend and the St. Joseph County Public Library have paired the rich content from their African American historical collections together to make a resource that tells a more representative story of the South Bend, Indiana area. This is an area that has been under-documented in general – as a smaller blue collar “rust belt” Midwestern city. In particular the area’s marginalized communities have not had their voices heard; this project remedies that.

Some of the items available on the website include photographs from the Dr. Bernard Streets Collection, which includes photos from the 1880s until 1999; a nearly complete run of The Reformer; a South Bend African American newspaper printed 1967 to 1971; and historical documents and studies on race and housing in South Bend. A more detailed list of items included in the website is available here: .

“Digitally scanned, cataloged, and presented together online, our combined archives document the history more completely than each of our institutions could do on our own,” said Sipocz. Stankrauff concurs. “Institutions partnering really help make history more representative and rich. This partnership helps to make that happen." 

The Michiana Memories collection will also be included in the Indiana Memory ( and Digital Public Library of America collections (

The project had a big public kick-off event the evening of February 3rd at the Civil Rights Heritage Center on South Bend’s west side. Attendees had a chance to use the website and enjoy community and academic presenters such as Ball State University’s Dr. Nicole Etcheson ( speaking on Southern Indiana’s soldiers of color during the Civil War.

This event was also tied into the South Bend 150th anniversary celebration ( – the city’s year-long birthday party, which is full of community events through all of 2015.

Stankrauff, who is active in local history and a member of the Civil Rights Heritage Center ( faculty advisory committee, is excited by the impact this collection will have on the community. “This project helps to tell the full story of Michiana,” she notes. “It adds the voices and stories of local African Americans and activists to show the amazing and important history we all share.” The project began in January 2014, when Sipocz contacted Stankrauff and Garner about applying for the grant. The fact that the three organizations were working together and combining their resources and skills was an important part of the grant's success.

“African American and civil rights history get lost all too often,” said Garner. “To have a state of the art website that allows easy access to this history for Michiana’s schools, for its universities, and for researchers across the United States is a huge accomplishment. When we honor the history of all our communities, we prove that South Bend is a city that honors its diversity.”

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