As Indianapolis embarks on a yearlong celebration of its bicentennial, the Polis Center at IUPUI—in collaboration with The Indianapolis Public Library and several major Indianapolis cultural and heritage institutions and organizations—is developing a bicentennial legacy project: a digital version of the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.

A distinguished and representative Civic Advisory Committee for the new digital Encyclopedia of Indianapolis is offering guidance and recommendations. Co-chairs include Sarah Evans Barker, Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana; Rick Fuson, President/COO, Pacers Sports & Entertainment; and Lacy Johnson, Partner, Ice Miller. Visit here for a list of additional committee members.

The print version of the city’s encyclopedia, published in 1994, was hailed as a national model for urban encyclopedias. The online resource will update Indianapolis people, places, and events since 1994 and offer benefits that a print version does not. The five main characteristics of new media—communication, collaboration, community, creativity, and convergence—make it more accessible and participatory.

The digital encyclopedia will be free and available across desktop and mobile devices. Content will be refreshed and added continually. The platform will include multi-media material including text, audio, video, images, exhibits, and story maps. Its integrative power will link to content from other digital collections housed elsewhere for deeper dives into subject matter.

“In order to be productive citizens, we need to understand our culture and our history as a city. Indianapolis can boast many accomplishments; it also has struggled with the same issues and problems that have affected us a nation. This accessible platform will address our triumphs and our tragedies. It will be an essential resource for anyone who wants to be an effective citizen and to contribute to what we will become as a city during our next century,” said David J. Bodenhamer, executive director of The Polis Center and professor of history at IUPUI.

The digital version will complement neighborhood entries with up-to-date statistical profiles and interactive maps, charts, graphs and tables generated by the SAVI community information system, thereby giving residents information about the places where they live and work. A document-and

image-rich digital timeline of the city will diverge to timelines of neighborhoods, community organizations, and events, including recent events such as the city’s response to COVID-19 and the protests following the killing of George Floyd.  A collaborative and interactive component will allow citizens and organizations to add materials such as special timelines or histories, as well as suggest entries and offer corrections and comments. A sample entry page may be seen here.

Future phases will provide features designed to take full advantage of web technologies, eventually including immersive capabilities such as augmented (AR) and virtual (VR) reality, as funding allows.

Indianapolis residents will be able to enjoy rich content about Indianapolis in a manner with which they are very familiar in today’s digital world, allowing them to access information on the go and to share with others easily. It will bring new and younger users to the websites and archives of the city’s cultural and heritage organizations.

“This resource provides a comprehensive gateway to the story of our city,” said Jackie Nytes, Indianapolis Public Library Chief Executive Officer. “Anyone wishing to explore Indianapolis’ many milestones and the rich tapestry of its civic and cultural organizations can do so online 24/7 when the site is launched. The Library is excited to play a role in its creation and to sustain it for future generations.”

Founding partners include University Library at IUPUI, the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana Humanities, the University of Indianapolis Mayoral Archives, the Indiana Archives and Records Administration, the Indiana Historical Bureau/Indiana State Library, Indiana Landmarks, and Butler University.

Public and private support is essential for the digital Encyclopedia of Indianapolis to sustain operations and add features. Financial support for the project thus far has been provided by the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Inc. and Lilly Endowment, Inc. Fundraising will continue for special features, content and technical development, and operational support. Individuals may donate through IU Foundation and select The Digital Encyclopedia of Indianapolis fund.

The website will launch in early 2021. Visit the digital encyclopedias social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you are interested in receiving the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis newsletter to keep abreast of progress, please subscribe here.