A long-term project is cataloging and preserving thousands of vintage photographs that document Indiana’s storied limestone industry, creating an extensive image archive that’s available to scholars, researchers, and the general public.
Rediscovered in a disused house owned by the Indiana Limestone Company of Bloomington, this remarkable pictorial record is believed to contain some 8,800 separate images. (Including duplicates, the collection numbers more than 26,000 individual prints.)
A team from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey at Indiana University, Bloomington, has processed more than 10,000 of the photos since beginning work in 2012. The work has been supported by state and university grants, survey resources, and private funding totaling about $90,000.
The collection dates from the early to mid-1900s. It illustrates Indiana limestone quarries and mills, as well as building sites across the country. The photographs showcase the prized stone’s legacy in building some of the nation’s most iconic buildings. Hundreds of the buildings documented in the collection stand today in excellent condition, testifying to the lasting strength and beauty of this native Hoosier resource.
The photos were originally made in support of Indiana Limestone Company’s marketing efforts. When rediscovered, they were at serious risk, stored in a structure without heat or air conditioning near the firm’s quarries in Oolitic, Ind. To preserve them, the geological survey undertook the process of cleaning and scanning them, and creating digital copies and metadata.
As they are processed, the photos become available for viewing at Indiana University’s Image Collections Online site: http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/images/splash.htm?scope=images/VAC5094. Currently, more than 5,000 photographs are available for viewing, and the collection is one of the more actively viewed areas of the ICO for the past year.
“Whether used for the entire building or just as adornments, Indiana limestone has a beauty that transcends time,” said Todd A. Thompson, state geologist and director of the Survey. “We have also produced photographs showing ‘then and now’ images of just a small fraction of the buildings captured in the Indiana Limestone Photograph Collection. I think they illustrate that, regardless how the building was treated over the past 100 years, the limestone remains as the building’s most durable, and to me, most precious part.”
Photographs in the collection document the extraordinary place of Indiana limestone in North American architecture and U.S. history. Including skyscrapers, residences, cathedrals, schools, banks, and libraries-with examples from nearly every state-the collection demonstrates the importance of the stone in creating America’s architectural environment.
Duffe Elkins, Chief Operating Officer at Indiana Limestone Company, expressed the firm’s pride in the heritage illustrated by the photographs. “This is a record unlike any other, not just of our company’s history but also of the whole limestone-quarrying region,” he said. “A find like this comes along very rarely. It’s a precious thing, and we’re so glad for the preservation efforts that the geological survey team is devoting to it.”
For more on Indiana Limestone Company and its products, visit www.indianalimestonecompany.com.
For additional information on the Indiana Geological Survey, visit https://igs.indiana.edu/.