Some 26,000 vintage photographs discovered in a disused Indiana house provide a unique look at the history of the state’s limestone industry. The pictures, donated by Indiana Limestone Co. to the Indiana Geological Survey (IGS) at Indiana University, are currently being cataloged and preserved through a short-term project managed by the survey. The IGS is actively seeking funding to support this important work.
The collection dates from the early to mid-1900s. It illustrates Indiana limestone quarries, mills and building sites across the country. The photographs showcase the prized stone’s legacy in building some of the nation’s most iconic buildings, as well as many structures in southern Indiana.
The photos were originally shot as part of the company’s marketing program. When rediscovered, they were beginning to deteriorate in a structure without heat or air conditioning near the firm’s Oolitic, IN, quarry. To preserve them, IGS undertook the process of cleaning, scanning, and creating digital copies and metadata.
“The survey brought the photos to a stable environment and began to sort and catalog them with the goal of creating high-resolution digital images to archive and make available to scholars, researchers and the general public.” said Licia Weber, IGS project director.
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 built environment.
Roughly 1,250 images, mostly of Indiana and Chicago subjects, have been inventoried, cataloged and scanned so far. They may be viewed at Indiana University’s Image Collections online site: http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/images/splash.htm?scope=images/VAC5094.
An exhibit featuring selected photographs was held last year at the Wylie House Museum on the university’s Bloomington campus. Exhibit sponsors were the IGS, the museum and Visit Bloomington.
Duffe Elkins, chief operating officer at Indiana Limestone Co., 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.”