The Barbara Stahl Collection’s fascinating journey within the Indiana State Library

We’re often asked, “What happens when materials make their way to Indiana State Library?” In this post, we’ll explore a collection’s journey with a recent acquisition from local artist, Barbara Stahl. The Barbara Stahl collection includes the first abstract work by a female artist to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division.

Barbara contacted the division in September 2016 after she learned about the library’s services through a friend. At the time, WISH-TV published an article about her work in downtown Indianapolis with the Indiana Pacers. For those of you who might not know, Barbara is the artist and owner behind Stahl Studios Inc., specializing in commercial and public art in Indianapolis and the surrounding area.

In October 2016, staff met with Barbara about the possibility of displaying her artwork at the Indiana State Library. A short time later, we made a site visit to Stahl Studios and discussed her career as well as the process behind creating her new series of large-scale oil paintings titled “Skybridge.” The paintings are a release from her earlier, more chaotic works; a metaphor for reaching one’s higher self.

The exhibit was well-received and led the Indiana State Library Foundation to purchase “Consciousness Rising,” one of six paintings from the series. Notably, this was the first purchase of abstract work created by a female artist for the permanent collection. Stahl mentions “Being included in this prestigious collection is very special and something I am extremely proud of.”

Further conversation led to the acquisition of her drawings, photographic prints and personal papers to the division. At this time, Barbara’s collection includes over four cubic feet of material. Rare Books and Manuscripts staff have thoroughly enjoyed working with her on the project – an opportunity she describes as “creating her legacy.”

The collection items are carefully looked over during the accessioning process. An inventory and record is created with temporary housing selected for the library’s secure, temperature and humidity controlled vault. The conservator creates special housing to ensure the longevity of her complex formats, particularly wax on wood panels and mud paintings completed in Belize.

Simultaneously, staff begin processing and creating the finding aid for Barbara’s collection. The finding aid or guide is a detailed record providing an intellectual overview of the collection as well as a detailed list of its items. Once the finding aid is complete, we add it to the online public access catalog, Evergreen, our Finding Aid Index and digitize the items for our digital repository, the Indiana State Library Digital Collections. These services provide top-notch accessibility to Barbara’s collection in our library and around the world.

Patrons can stop by the second floor of the library during regular business hours to see the Barbara Stahl collection in-person. As a bonus, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division is now open until 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings for research needs. Not only will you love seeing her work up close, you’ll also enjoy sitting in the beautiful, 1930s art deco inspired reading room.

This blog post was written by Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Barb Stahl “Skybridge” exhibit on display at the Indiana State Library

Compared to many of her previous paintings, often characterized with seemingly chaotic textures, drips, brushstroke and colors, “Skybridge” represents a moment of pause and reflection; a breath of calm in the middle of the storm. The “Skybridge” series, created over a period of six months, is the first group of paintings Stahl has created with the intention that they be viewed together in a particular order to allow the viewer to move through this achievement of calm with her. It portrays a reflection of the inner self: how we process and compartmentalize; how we meditate on our daily lives; how we release internalized anxiety; and, how, in the end, we find ourselves inside.

“Skybridge” on display at the Indiana State Library

“Skybridge” will be on display in the Exhibition Hall of the Indiana State Library from Thursday, April 13, 2017 to July 12, 2017. For hours of operation, directions and parking information, click here.

Artist Barbara Stahl

Born in Vincennes, Ind., Stahl moved to Indianapolis in 1992 after finishing her MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania. While earning her BFA in painting from Indiana University in Bloomington, she received an Honors Division Research Grant to study in Florence, Italy. In addition to being an accomplished fine artist, Stahl is also the founder and owner of Stahl Studios Inc., which specializes in commercial and public art, through which she is perhaps best-known for the larger-than-life Indiana Pacers schedule wall near Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Her large-scale mural work always begins with a grid, enabling her to scale the original, smaller mural design to the massive size required for the wall. After many years, the concept of the grid has come to play an important part in her more abstract fine art pieces. For Stahl, this grid represents the connectivity of all matter, including all of us.

This blog post was written by Rebecca Shindel and Bethany Fiechter, exhibition chairs, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at