Indiana State Library and Historical Building
The Indiana State Library was established in 1825 shortly after the state capital was moved to Indianapolis and the building that now houses it was completed in 1934. The Indiana limestone building is the largest library in the state and contains over 2 million volumes within its walls. It features stained glass windows, oak and walnut paneling, a marble staircase, hand-painted murals and bas-relief sculptures on its exterior. The building is also home to the Indiana Historical Bureau and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
Backstory and Context
The notion of a state library was first mentioned in the Journal of the Constitutional Convention in 1816 when the territorial capital was located at Corydon (It would serve as the state capital from 1816-1825). However, it was not formally established until the capital moved to Indianapolis in 1825. It was originally established to assist state legislators with conducting research on various topics and space was designated for the library in the new statehouse with the Secretary of State serving as the first librarian.
The library eventually outgrew its statehouse home and plans for a new building began in 1929, the same year as the advent of the Great Depression. A 2-cent tax was levied to raise funds for the new library, the site was purchased in 1931, and an architectural design contest was created. This contest was won by the firm of Pierre and Wright and their plans were completed by 1932. Construction began that same year and was completed two years later. Their design combined elements of both Neo-classicalism and art deco and called for a simple and clean exterior.
Carved into the limestone exterior are numerous bas-relief figures. The smaller carvings, just above the first-floor windows, represent the history of the state and the advance of civilization. Included in this collection are a Native American, pioneer, an airplane and a designer with instruments. The larger figures, along the Senate Avenue side, represent the growth and development of the state and include an explorer, soldier, legislator and an aspiring student. Inside the building is a soaring, 42-foot vaulted foyer, a grand marble staircase, and a two-story circulation room that features stained glass, murals, stencil work, and wood paneling and carvings.
Today, the library is divided into six divisions: talking books and Braille library, genealogy, the Indiana Collection, rare books and manuscripts, reference and government services, and library development. In addition to the over 2 million volumes, the library also houses more than 3,500 manuscripts, 1.5 million images, and thousands of maps. Also located within the library is the headquarters for the Indiana Historical Bureau which was established in 1915 as the Indiana Historical Commission. It was initially created to assist in the preparations for the state’s centennial celebrations. It promotes the education of Indiana’s history and places new historical markers throughout the state as well as maintains those already situated. It also operates a small gift and book shop within the library.
"History of the Library." IN.gov. Accessed February 15, 2017. http://www.in.gov/library/2453.htm
Lorentz, Lisa. "Friday Favorites: Hidden Gems, The Indiana State Library." Historic Indianapolis. Novemebr 1, 2013. Accessed February 15, 2017. http://historicindianapolis.com/friday-favorites-hidden-gems/
Russell, Joyce. "Remember your Roots: Indiana State Library." NWI Times. April 28, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2017. http://www.nwitimes.com/blogs/remember-your-roots/remember-your-roots-indiana-state-library/article_...