South Bend exhibit chronicles 200 years of history for Indiana University

Jay VanderVeen likes to dig in to a subject. He is a professor of sociology and anthropology at IU South Bend and he usually digs in the ground. This time it was into IU’s archives.

The exhibit “Indiana University: 200 Years in the Making” has opened at the History Museum, 808 W. Washington St. His research led to the exhibit that features timelines, story boards, posters, uniforms and artifacts.

And it is a very timely exhibit, since IU celebrates its bicentennial on Monday. The Indiana General Assembly created Indiana Seminary on Jan. 20, 1820. At the time it had one teacher who taught Ancient Greek and Latin. It grew from there to become Indiana College in 1828 and then Indiana University in 1838.

Jay said he received a bicentennial grant to develop a course that included an archaeology dig on the south side of the campus in the student housing area. The area was formerly known as Springbrook Park and later as Playland Park, which had many lives as a golf course, ballroom, amusement park, baseball diamond and race track.

The amusement park closed in 1961. The par-three golf course opened in 1962 and operated for 40 years.

The area for the dig was near the concrete grandstands. The students and professsor found a Playland golf ball, bottles and bottle caps.

Jay said he then took his sabbatical and continued the research in IU’s and IUSB’s archives. He offered his research to the History Museum for an exhibit. And it all fell together so nicely.

He said he made two trips to archives in Bloomington to research and plow through boxes of materials. “I looked and there were three dozen boxes” to review. He knew he had some work to do.

The IUSB archives house many publications, posters, photos and bulletins.

“The goal (of the exhibit) was the impact of IU in South Bend, and a big part of that is IUSB,” he said.

For example there are two scrapbooks from IU students at Bloomington, Una Lenore Camp and Emma K. Schmidt. They both were from the South Bend area and attended Bloomington around 1915. The connection of IU and South Bend was created early. Una graduated and taught high school math and Latin. Emma attended until 1918. Both scrapbooks were full of comments about life on campus.

From South Bend, Jay uncovered early class bulletins and a political science class in 1916. “We know IU established the extension division in 1912 with the first classes in Indianapolis. The first classes targeted teachers, and professional development,” he said.

Many classes were at Central High. Other locations included the YMCA, Madison School and sites in Elkhart. There were more organized classes starting in 1933. The first degrees were awarded in 1967.

One part of the exhibit features the buildings that became IUSB — from the Coca Cola bottling plant and South Bend Watch, to Associates and Stanz Cheese Processing Plant. “That is my favorite with the map of the current campus and the previous buildings with before and after shots,” he said.

He added there is still a lot to uncover in the history. There may be boxes in someone’s basement that hold a few more treasures.

The exhibit is open through April 19.


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