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New Digital Collection Highlights Local Firefighters' History

October 12, 2010

The Indianapolis Fire Department's 150-year history has been brought to life with a digital collection of over one thousand photographs, logbooks, audio and video clips, 3-dimensional objects and miscellaneous items from the Indianapolis Firefighters Museum now available through the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library's online Digital Library.

Visitors to the online collection will be introduced to the Firefighters Museum, which resides in the oldest remaining fire station building in the city (built in 1872) on the north end of the Massachusetts Avenue corridor. The Museum's vast collection includes many items from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as photographs and older logbooks that are in such poor or fragile condition that preservation has become a primary concern. The partnership with IMCPL and the IUPUI University Library, with funding from the Central Indiana Community Foundation, has allowed the collection to become accessible to the larger community.

In addition to numerous photos depicting Indianapolis firefighting history, the online collection highlights some of Indianapolis' most unforgettable tragedies, such as the Bowen-Merrill Bookstore fire (downtown West Washington Street) on March 17, 1890, the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum explosion on October 31, 1963, and the Grant Building fire (downtown East Washington Street) on November 5, 1973. Not only will viewers find photos and newspaper accounts of these events, but, in the case of the Coliseum explosion and Grant fire, fascinating audio clips will allow them to listen in on emergency dispatch conversations, from initial response to calls for outside assistance. Black and white news footage of the Coliseum explosion shown on then-WLWI-TV in Indianapolis is also featured.

The Indianapolis Firefighters Museum Collection of digital images can be found by clicking the Digital Library link on the Library's homepage at www.imcpl.org, or go directly to http://digitallibrary.imcpl.org/ffm/

The public will have an opportunity to celebrate the Fire Department's anniversary during the “Historical Firefighters Roadshow” on Saturday, October 30 from 12 noon - 4 p.m. at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair Street. The event will open with a firefighters' recognition ceremony, followed by displays of historic images, vintage artifacts and fire trucks from the Museum's collection. Young ones can visit the Fire Safety Trailer. IMCPL staff will guide patrons on locating images in the new online collection and Museum staff will be available to chat with patrons throughout the afternoon.

Other historic collections available in IMCPL's Digital Library collection include Shortridge High School yearbooks from 1898 to 1968, the Indianapolis Postcards collection, artifacts from The Children's Museum, the May Wright Sewall Papers, the World War One Poster collection, the Free Soil Banner newspaper, programs from English's Opera House, and actual recordings of poems read by beloved Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley.