More than 10,000 newly digitized materials from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Indianapolis Fire Department featuring log books, dispatch recordings, personnel records, newsletters and photos dating to the 1870s can be found online in The Indianapolis Public Library’s Digital Indy collection.
The downloadable collection, unveiled during a special ceremony on August 26 at Central Library attended by Mayor Joe Hogsett and representatives of IMPD, IFD and the Library, offers free access for individuals, researchers and students to explore the rich and illustrious histories of the two public safety agencies and to celebrate their roles in community life.
Made possible by a $1.8 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through gifts to The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation, the collection’s availability to the public is the culmination of a two-year effort to identify, acquire and digitize materials that encompassed approximately 4,660 staff hours and over 80,000 scans. The collection adds to the nearly 4,700 items from the Indianapolis Firefighters Museum that became part of Digital Indy in 2010.
Within the IMPD collection, Digital Indy visitors will find hundreds of prisoner mug shots; artifacts such as badges, guns and uniforms; arrest logs; accident and crime scenes; early portrait photos of police men and women; and photos of recruiting classes. There are also videos that show such activities as honors award and graduation ceremonies, training procedures, and television news coverage of the department.
“We are very pleased and proud to share our history through the Library’s Digital Indy collections,” stated IMPD Deputy Chief Michael Spears. “The City of Indianapolis has a police department of which it can be extremely proud. This collection is the most complete and definitive collection of documents, photographs, videos and other exhibits ever compiled. We hope citizens of Indianapolis and others throughout the world will enjoy reviewing our accomplishments and heritage.”
In the IFD collection, in addition to photos, personnel records from the 1800s, and emergency dispatch conversations, new items include the recorded oral histories of retired department personnel and log books dating over 100 years. These complement the existing online firefighting collection of audio and video clips, 3-dimensional objects and miscellaneous items, and photos of some of Indianapolis’ most unforgettable tragedies, such as the Fairgrounds Coliseum explosion in 1963 and the Grant Building fire in 1973.
“The Indianapolis Fire Department has a rich and proud 160-year history, and through our partnership with The Indianapolis Public Library we are preserving that history for future generations,” said Tom Hanify, Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana President. “More importantly, we are sharing that history with the entire Indianapolis community through the new Indianapolis Public Library Digital Collection.”
Many of the physical materials from the police and fire collections will be on display as a special exhibit continuing through November in the Nina Mason Pulliam Indianapolis Special Collections Room at Central Library.
The grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. also provided for digitization of historic materials from the Indianapolis Public Schools, which were added to the Digital Indy site in 2018, and the Indianapolis Parks and Recreation Department, scheduled for completion in 2020.
Digital Indy provides free public access to digital images and recordings of cultural and historical interest that are increasingly valuable, fragile or otherwise inaccessible. These highlight local schools, arts organizations, Indianapolis neighborhoods, governmental institutions, and collections of other specific groups.