Supporters of the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives will host an annual meeting beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Indiana University Center for Art and Design in the Sears building at Third and Jackson streets.
The highlight of the session will be a talk by architect Steve Risting, a design principal in the Indianapolis firm of CSO Architects who has been involved in several major projects, such as the Commons, the Cole Apartments and St. Bartholomew Catholic Church.
Risting also is a member of the board of directors of the Archives and is part of a group seeking to reinvigorate the organization’s efforts to develop the Archives into a nationally recognized repository for the comprehensive story of Columbus architecture.
It is an effort that, if successful, could have a tremendous effect on the entire community. For that reason, the entire community — or as much of it as possible — should become involved.
The Archives is not exactly in a moribund state. Much of the collection of papers and artifacts are housed in the Bartholomew County Library and a storage warehouse. Some scale models have been dispersed for exhibit around the city.
The organization has a significant endowment of $750,000 and has been able to engage the part-time services of an archivist from Indiana University to help in the cataloging of a vast amount of material relating to the city’s built environment.
But the group once again stands at a crossroads in its history. It is seeking an impetus to move it forward.
The present state of the Archives is a familiar one. Although this particular group was formed in 2004, it actually is the continuation of past efforts to preserve the city’s architectural history.
One of the first attempts was in 1967, when the board of the Bartholomew County Library voted to explore ways to collect and catalog materials. John West, an assistant planner with the city of Columbus, embarked on a mission of collecting materials from some of the architects who had designed major structures in the city and was joined by Library Director Steve Suckow in the compilation effort.
A number of materials were collected and stored in the library, but eventually the project stalled and remained inactive until the early 1980s.
That was when a formal group was organized. The collection effort resumed, but eventually ran out of steam.
A third attempt in 2004 had a much greater intensity provided, in part, by activist Lynn Bigley. She joined with others in a major collection drive, going beyond the buildings on the architectural tour to take into account other designs, some dating to the 19th century.
The results of their efforts bore fruit, so many in fact that the city was able to showcase its archives to a national audience at a convention of the Indiana-Kentucky chapters of the American Institute for Architects.
Bigley and her group collected not only materials but money. They set a goal of $1 million for a permanent endowment and were three quarters of the way to attainment when she died. Bigley’s work was carried on by others, but the enthusiasm was affected by her passing.
In a sense, the Archives project has been on hold since her death a year ago. Now the group is poised to move forward again.
One of the key elements for success is to broaden the membership, a major priority that has been set by the board. That more people have not become involved is something of a surprise.
The time is certainly ripe. Earlier this month, The Republic building became the seventh structure in the city to be given the designation of National Historic Landmark. There is also a renewed interest in restoring archives in other areas. Officials at Cummins Inc. just opened an archives area for the company’s material.
But while it’s ripe, time also is running out on the collection process. Many materials related to the local built environment are stored in other archives. Some will become lost through neglect.
A good time to start and get involved would be at the 4 p.m. Thursday meeting at the IU Center for Art and Design.
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