Introduction to Rare Books and Manuscripts

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Division at the Indiana State Library includes an estimated 3 million manuscripts in 5,200 different collections ranging from the early 15th century to present day. People often ask, “What is the earliest item in your collection?” Believe it or not, the earliest items are cuneiform (kyoo-nee’-uh-form) tablets dating from 2350-2000 B.C. The division hosts many more treasures, including Civil War-era letters and diaries, family papers and the records of many political figures from the Hoosier state.

Uruk votive cone, circa 2100 B.C.

Our unit comprises of four full-time staff, two volunteers and one part-time contract position. We provide reference services, instructional sessions, scanning and photocopying, collection guides and digital resources for anyone to use. The Manuscripts Catalog, a new database to search our collections, allows patrons to receive generated citations, print PDF versions of collection guides and request materials using an online form.

Rare Books and Manuscripts staff at Crown Hill Cemetery, 2019. Left to right: Lauren Patton, Bethany Fiechter, Brittany Kropf and Laura Eliason.

In 2018, the division was awarded a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant to digitize the papers of Will H. Hays. Hays served as the Republican National Committee chairman during 1918-21, campaign manager for President Warren Harding in 1920 and later became president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America from 1922-45, where he established the Hays Code of acceptable content for motion pictures. Providing digital access to this collection will enable researchers unlimited access, leading to more research and discovery across multiple disciplines. To view our progress, visit the Will H. Hays digital collection.

Lucille Ball and Will Hays at the Film Critics Circle Reception, 1940.

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Division continues to acquire material defining Indiana’s history and culture. Help us preserve it by donating to the collection. For more information, visit our new Donating Manuscripts page.

For more information, please contact  Rare Books and Manuscripts at 317-232-3671 or via email.

Vintage Valentine’s Day cards

Love it or hate it, today is Valentine’s Day. Here are three images of a Valentine’s Day pop-up card from the 1910s -1920s, courtesy of the Indiana State Library’s Rare Books and Manuscripts collection. The recipient, Hazel Whiteleather, married Indiana artist Floyd Hopper. Hazel worked at the Indiana State Library for 44 years before retiring in 1975.

You can find many more Valentine’s Day cards within the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division.

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” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.

State library staff meet Governor Holcomb

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, staff from the Indiana State Library met Indiana’s 51st Governor, Eric Holcomb. After learning he was an American Civil War buff, Associate Director of Public Services Connie Bruder, Rare Books and Manuscripts Supervisor Bethany Fiechter and Rare Books and Manuscripts Program Coordinator Laura Eliason presented a Civil War carte de visite album commissioned by Governor Oliver P. Morton.

Bethany Fiechter shows Governor Holcomb a Civil War carte de visite album commissioned by Governor Oliver P. Morton.

The Governor Oliver P. Morton Civil War Soldiers Photograph Collection (P001) includes three carte de visite albums to perpetuate the remembrance of Indiana regiment officers. The portraits are arranged alphabetically by last name with notations indicating the name, rank, regiment and, if applicable, place of death.

L to R: Bethany Fiechter, Governor Holcomb, Laura Eliason and Connie Bruder.

For more information about Governor Oliver P. Morton, view our finding aid here. Interested in more Civil War photographs? The Rare Books and Manuscripts Division has made available over 80 photographs here.

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” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.