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New archivist plans to set the record straight, chronologically

Posted on 02.20.2013

The University of Indianapolis hired Mark Vopelak in January to be the new head archivist and curator for the Institute for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives. Vopelak is one of 14 certified archivists in Indiana and one of only two in Indianapolis.

According to Interim Director of the Institute for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives and Associate Professor of History and Political Science Edward Frantz, Vopelak was brought in to organize and preserve the large collection of city government documents and artifacts, so they can be used by the public.

“What I’m most interested in as the director and as a trained historian is getting to a point where we can use these things as quickly as possible,” Frantz said.

According to Vopelak, one of the biggest priorities is to digitize the collection, so researchers do not have to visit campus in order to access it.

“There is this whole idea of archives without walls,” Vopelak said. “As we move more into technology, we’re trying to embrace the new avenues that are open to us.”

Vopelak will be using new technology developed by Harvard University.

“The great thing about the Harvard technology is that when you’re digitizing it, you can be processing it at the same time, which eliminates a lot of work,” Vopelak said.

According to Vopelak, before this new technology was available, collections  had to be processed and then digitized. Vopelak said that another perk of this technology is that things can be moved around within an organized collection, which is helpful for adding additional pieces at a later date.

“We’re going to try this and see how it goes,” Vopelak said.

Frantz said that Harvard gave a good demonstration at a conference that he attended, and everything needed to start processing the collection seems to be there. He said, however, that there will always be problems with new technology.

“We think it will work, they tell us it will work, but that will be part of the challenge and part of the fun, to see if it does,” Frantz said. “I think, if we do it right, it has potential to be this really collaborative thing that is not just one unit of the university.”

Frantz hopes the collection will draw people already on campus as well as those outside of the campus community.  The process will likely include faculty from several departments and could involve students.

Frantz said that one challenge is placing the pieces in history, because some items in the collection, especially photographs, lack basic information such as who, what and where.

“The great thing for this collection is that the archivist has to do his detective work to even make the collection work and fill that in so that a researcher can do his or her detective work,” Frantz said. “What’s cool for us is that we get to do both.”


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