In March 2018, Ball State University was the only Indiana institution to receive an Interior and National Park Service grant to preserve African American Civil Rights History. The $49,989-grant was awarded to the university to create a virtual museum about Hoosier Civil Rights History.
“We want to help people around the nation be able to understand and access information about Indiana during the civil rights era, and events across time that have contributed to the state of civil rights today,” said history professor Ron Morris, who will oversee content for the museum.
Morris, along with archaeologist Christine Thompson and director of the Applied Anthropology Lab and senior archaeologist Kevin Nolan, will work with students to compile research, gauge community feedback and build an interactive website for virtual museum.
Though some grant recipients opted to construct or preserve brick-and-mortar locations, Morris said the team wanted to create a 24/7, web-accessible resource.
As of now, the team is looking to populate the website with more than 100 sites of Civil Rights History across Indiana. The research, which started in mid-August by graduate assistants, will feature student work from Morris’ spring 2018 and 2019 history practicums.
“For now, we’re thinking about 100 sites. In the future, we expect it to grow, but let’s take care of the 100 first,” Morris said. “We’re looking at people, places and events, so our museum exhibits will be sort of clustered around those three ideas.”
Morris said the museum will detail moments in Indiana Civil Rights History like when Robert Kennedy visited Muncie at the time of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, along with Indiana’s history with segregation and the underground railroad.
However, community members from Indianapolis, Gary and Evansville, Indiana, will provide feedback on the exhibits before they go live on the website.
“There may be something that we’re focusing on that was easy for us to gather information and tell a story on, that that’s not what they want to be represented in the museum,” Nolan said. “So then we would take direction from those meetings to make sure that it’s going to be useful to — I mean those are our target audiences, if it’s not useful to the communities that had to deal with that struggle and still deal with the effects of that struggle, then it’s not a useful product.”
Morris and Nolan said they anticipate the virtual museum will be interactive and allow those interested to take a tour through the museum based on location or theme. Though the website is still underway, Nolan said by the end of spring 2019 it should launch, featuring some of the sites.