By Mark Ambrogi
Katherine Dill is convinced a grant will help dramatically increase the public’s access to the Carmel Clay Historical Society’s collection.
CCHS was awarded a $26,000 Heritage Support Grant from the Indiana Historical Society, made possible by Lilly Endowment. The grant will allow CCHS to complete a four-phase plan to inventory, organize, digitize and provide public access to the collection.
Dill, who was the CCHS executive director from 2010 from 2014, has returned to manage the grant in a paid position. She said her familiarity with the collection should help with the process. CCHS Executive Director Whitney Dennis is leaving at the end of August because of her husband’s job relocation. Emily Ehrgott will serve as interim executive director.
“The funds will be used to hire staff to catalog and digitize our collection,” Dill said. “Right now, it is well organized in acid-free folders and boxes, and there is a rough inventory of the collection noting generally what we have and where it is located.”
Dill said, for example, all the newspapers are in flat boxes, organized by date. The Carmel High School collection is in four boxes on the bottom shelf in the main research room.
However, she said much of the meat of the collection is not available.
“We don’t know who is mentioned in letters or diaries or the subjects of those manuscripts,” Dill said. “We can’t easily pull up every photograph of the Carmel Friends Church, Main Street or Jane Reiman, our first female mayor. Cataloging the collection will change all that. Staff will input the collection into PastPerfect, which is a special computer program we use. It allows us to search for individuals, places, businesses, or events in Carmel’s history, and every item we have relating to that search will be pulled up. Then, we can easily locate them within the collection.”
The staff will digitize manuscripts and photographs.
“When this project is complete, the bulk of our collection will be accessible online,” Dill said. “Elementary school teachers can bring historic photos of Carmel into their classroom. High school teachers can bring 19th century primary documents about Carmel into their lesson plans. People who grew up here or whose family members lived here can find pictures of family, friends or residences from anywhere in the country — all from their computers.”