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Frequently Asked Questions

The librarians at the William H. Smith Memorial Library answer a lot of questions, and these are the most common.

1. How do I donate an item to the collections?
2. What is a Hoosier?
3. Do you offer an interlibrary loan service?
4. Do you have Indiana newspapers?
5. When was the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument built?
6. How can I research the history of my house or property and find photos of it?
7. Do you provide information about preserving or renovating my historic home and can I register it as a landmark?
8. How do I research my family history?
9. Why hasn't the genealogy collection been moved from 315 W. Ohio St. to the new IHS headquarters?
10. Do you have naturalization records?
11. What kinds of collections and research material do you have?
12. How can I get photocopies?
13. Have you heard of a town called [fill in the blank]? I can't find it on any maps.
14. How can I preserve my great-grandmother's letters and papers so they will last, and where can I get the supplies I need?
15. I have what I believe to be a historically significant item can you tell me how much it is worth?
16. How did the library get its name?

How do I donate an item to the collections?

Review our Collections Development and Acquisitions Policy to find out what we collect. If you're interested in making a donation – or offering an item for sale – contact us at collections_development@indianahistory.org.

What is a Hoosier?

Read the article "The Meanings of Hoosier" published in Traces, Fall 2008.

Do you offer interlibrary loan service?

IHS collections don’t leave the building. A limited interlibrary loan service is provided only for manuscript collections which have both a positive and negative microfilm copy. To borrow microfilm, a researcher must initiate the request through a local library. At IHS, this service is coordinated through the Manuscripts and Visual Collections of the Library. There is a $5 service charge per reel loaned. No original research material – books, manuscripts, photograph or artifacts – can be circulated outside of the library. We have no circulating newspaper microfilm collection.

Do you have Indiana newspapers?

At the present time, the IHS library doesn’t have an extensive newspaper collection. There are only a limited number of special edition copies of newspapers from representative towns and cities around the state. These issues are original copies, not microfilm, and their focus is on community celebrations, anniversaries and other special occasions. They are not cataloged. IHS’s main involvement with newspapers has been in its operation of a newspaper microfilming project for many years. The filming of Indiana newspapers is one of the key activities of the Preservation Imaging Department. Once microfilmed, newspapers are then deposited with the collection of the Newspaper section of the Indiana State Library. This is the chief repository for newspapers in the state, and it does provide a limited interlibrary loan service for microfilmed newspapers. Please contact them at (317) 232-3670 for specific titles and issues.

When was the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument built?

In 1888, ground was broken for construction of this 284.5-foot high Indianapolis landmark. The cornerstone was set the following year, and building began. After several delays related to individual design elements in the monument, construction was finally completed in 1901, and the dedication ceremony, commemorating the monument to the “Silent Victors of Indiana,” was held May 15, 1902. The statue atop the monument is known as Victory and is symbolic of the ending of the Civil War and the ultimate victory of the North over the South.

How can I research the history of my house or property and find photos of it?

There are many ways to pursue this research. At the IHS Library, researchers may have success exploring city directories to find the location and previous owners of a structure. Some local and area histories may include information about previous owners or photos of certain structures. Maps from the Sanborn Insurance Company are useful in documenting the site of a structure and its physical surroundings from as early as the 1880s to as late as the 1960s. This series of maps includes several cities and towns around Indiana. Photographic and architectural collections in the library are often useful and very popular with researchers. Please consult with library staff to search these collections.

Do you provide information about preserving or renovating my historic home and can I register it as a landmark?

Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, a not-for-profit organization, specializes in the preservation and restoration of historic sites and structures. They have regional offices throughout the state that can provide assistance with questions regarding renovations, grant and funding sources, and other resources helpful to those restoring buildings or researching preservation and architectural history. You can find information about their services at www.historiclandmarks.org.There is both a state register of historic sites and structures and a national register. IHS doesn’t maintain either register. Indiana's Register of Historic Sites and Structures is maintained by the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. Their phone number is (317) 232-1646. There is also a National Register of Historic Places, maintained by the National Park Service. For more information and a complete list of sites, visit www.nps.gov.

How do I research my family history?

For the real novice, a strategy for starting one’s family history research might include attending genealogy workshops sponsored by the Indiana Historical Society’s Public Programs Department. General sources about genealogy research methods, available at most public libraries, might also help the beginner. An excellent starting place is the Genealogy section of the Indiana State Library. IHS has a vast collection of manuscripts, visual materials, county histories and rare published volumes which offer a unique perspective of how people lived, telling much about what their lives were like. For those who want to know how to conduct genealogical research using IHS resources please consult the Family History Research page.

Why hasn’t the genealogy collection been moved from 315 W. Ohio Street to the new IHS headquarters?

There is very simple reason: This collection doesn’t belong to the Indiana Historical Society. The Indiana State Library established this collection many years ago, so it will remain there. In the past, there has been a common misconception that IHS and the Indiana State Library were one and the same, perhaps because both were under the same roof, along with the Indiana Historical Bureau and the Indiana State Archives. Many tenants and one building made for much confusion to the general public. The Indiana Historical Society is a private, not-for-profit membership organization and is not affiliated with state government agencies.

Do you have naturalization records?

IHS has neither naturalization records nor immigration and passenger lists in its collection, but we can check the Index and refer you to the appropriate court system – circuit, common pleas, probate or superior – and the county where naturalization records may still reside. An Index to Naturalization Records ... Prior to 1907 was published by IHS. It is an index only and serves as a referral guide to records held by the individual courts within Indiana's 92 counties.

What kinds of collections and research materials do you have?

We have a broad spectrum of material documenting the history of Indiana from its early exploration and settlement to the present. For more information on the types of materials collected by the library and the means of accessing them, please refer to our Collections page.

How can I get photocopies?

We have specific policies and procedures about copying material from our research collection. Many items are eligible for photocopying, though each request is handled on a case-by-case basis. Printed sources and manuscript collections are not copied in their entirety. Visual collections will not be photocopied, though images can be photographically reproduced. The condition of any original material is paramount in considering its eligibility for reproduction in any manner. In the event an item can’t be photocopied, requesting a photographic reproduction could be an option. For more information, please consult Collections and Library Reference Services, Copies and Fees.

Have you heard of a town called [fill in the blank]? I can’t find it on any maps.

There are many Indiana towns, villages, burgs and bumps in the road that are not widely documented or may have vanished from existence. Researchers often come across these names in the course of their research and seek further information on the location or history of these sites. We have several reference sources that can assist with this documentation – some providing answers in just a few minutes. Please contact the reference desk at (317) 234-0321 to inquire about any of Indiana’s “mystery” towns.

How can I preserve my great-grandmother’s letters and papers so they will last, and where can I get the supplies that I need?

We recommend that valuable materials like these be stored in a stable environment. That begins with placing them in acid-free folders, boxes or containers. Different items may require different types of handling, treatment and storage. Please consult the Conservation Department for information on treatment consultations available to the public and referrals to vendors and regional conservation laboratories.

I have what I believe to be a historically significant item, can you tell me how much it’s worth?

We are unable to provide monetary appraisals of any kind to the public, but we can provide referrals to a number of appraisers who can, for a fee, assess the likely value of an item.

How did the library get its name?

William Henry Smith (1833 to 1896) was the father of Delavan Smith (1861 to 1922). The younger Smith was the publisher of the Indianapolis News for nearly 30 years, and he gave $150,000 plus a rare book collection – worth more than $250,000 in 1922 – to IHS, the core of our present rare book collection. His father, William, was a historian, journalist and general manager of the combined Western Associated Press and New York Associated Press organization from 1883 to 1893, which was the primary forerunner of the modern Associated Press formed in 1900. The money and books left to IHS by Delavan were to be used to establish a memorial library to honor the elder Smith, and the William H. Smith Memorial Library was born.