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Indiana Historical Society

Make history relevant in a visual culture

Visitors to the Indiana Historical Society using the Destination Indiana interface
Photo by Amy Unger

We do history. Indiana Historical Society

"This is a terrific way of telling stories because, increasingly, we've become a visual culture. CONTENTdm allows us to present an image with plenty of space for adequate metadata to explain that image."

Susan Sutton
Director of Digitization, Indiana Historical Society

According to the Indiana Historical Society's Director of Digitization, Susan Sutton, "one of the things that we're really passionate about here is connecting people to the past and helping them to see how they are part of the past and how it affects their everyday lives." To make that connection, they use CONTENTdm® to power their digital storytelling platform, Destination Indiana.

"As Indiana's storytellers," Susan said, "we really love to be able to take a story and use materials from our collections to present that story in a nutshell." With more than 3,600 images organized into short "journeys," the Destination Indiana website allows people all over the world to easily browse this history. "Destination Indiana is a great place for people to start if they don't have a good feeling for what we have or what we do," she added. "We hope that it encourages them to do a little more reading, a little more research … or actually come into our library." Luke Smith, the Senior Director of Information Technology, added, "Making CONTENTdm our core database has really helped us" achieve that goal.

"I've really come to deeply appreciate how well-structured and well-engineered CONTENTdm is. OCLC has kept it simple while still offering more and more features. …That's so respectful to what a developer's needs might be, which is a remarkable thing."

Luke Smith
Senior Director of Information Technology, Indiana Historical Society

Luke especially appreciates how the CONTENTdm API allows him to customize the Destination Indiana website. He noted that OCLC has "maintained the back alleyways of getting in there and getting to the data." He added, "This is why I was so comfortable building something else on top of CONTENTdm, because I trusted that those would continue to be maintained." Luke's custom interface pulls information from the CONTENTdm database that Susan's team contributes to. "It's really a great platform," Susan said. "It's flexible and gives people a chance to show off their collection in the original intended way."

"CONTENTdm really is giving us the chance to give access where there was no access before," Susan added. "We've always had exhibits [in the library], but the static exhibits don't pull people into smaller organizations like ours." But the journeys available through Destination Indiana do, partially because Susan lets her staff recommend the stories they think need to be told. "We try to put up things that are not simply local interest but that are important for people," she added.

Using CONTENTdm as the foundation for Destination Indiana has allowed the Indiana Historical Society to share stories with the rest of the world in a way that's visually engaging. "I'm constantly pleased with the technological advances that have been made to help us share information," Susan said. "It really is exciting for me to come to work and have the chance to put this out there for people."

Map showing location of the Indiana Historical Society

Library at a glance

  • A nonprofit, membership organization founded in 1830 to connect people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state's history
  • Collection includes more than 1.7 million photographs, 45,000 cataloged printed items, 3,500 pieces of sheet music, 5,300 processed manuscript collections, 3,300 artifacts, 1,460 cataloged maps, 780 broadsides and 90 paintings
  • Destination Indiana journey topics include each county in the state, famous people, and broader topics, such as World War II, artists, and railroads

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