Students, Professors Collaborate to Bring Johnson County History to Indiana Historical Society
Events and Lectures

Thanks to the collaboration of Franklin College students, professors and professionals, access to an important part of Johnson County history is now just a click away, allowing viewers the opportunity to time travel from the comfort of their own home. And there’s never been a better time to do so than now.

Since 2016, the Honorable Roger Douglas Branigin Archives, a collection of gubernatorial papers and photographs donated to Franklin College have been on display in the B.F. Hamilton Library on the Franklin College campus. Branigin was the 42nd governor of Indiana, a 1923 alumnus of the college and a 1956 honorary degree recipient. The collection has the distinction of being the only governor’s papers not housed at the Indiana Archives and Records Administration.

Now, thanks to a grant the college received from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), a selection of the archives is available to both in-person visitors as well as virtual visitors of Destination Indiana, an interactive feature of the Indiana Historical Society (IHS). While visitors to the Indianapolis location can experience history on the personal station screens, anyone in the world can travel back in time to discover significant events and meet historical figures from all 92 of Indiana’s counties. This online platform,, is also a valuable resource for educators.

The Branigin Archives was a perfect fit for the criteria of the CIC grant project – Humanities Research for the Public Good – which was to promote student research at a private college or university, to address issues of public significance, and to showcase the rich, archival, library, and museum collections held by participating institutions.

“The objectives of the grant also dovetailed nicely with Franklin College’s new curriculum,” explained Jessica Mahoney, MLS, assistant library director and information literacy librarian. “It supports undergraduate research, collaboration with community partners and engagement with the public.”

The Destination Indiana project came to life through the collaboration of individuals from many different disciplines, both at the college and in the community. In addition to Mahoney, the team included: Meredith Clark-Wiltz, Ph.D., associate professor of history; Joel Cramer, J.D., professor of journalism; Sherri Hall, assistant professor of education; Betsy Schmidt, director of academic partnerships; David Pfeiffer, director of the Johnson County Museum of History and lecturer of history at Franklin College; Susan Sutton, director of digitization at the Indiana Historical Society; and Suzanne Hahn, vice president of archives and library at the Indiana Historical Society. But while this group provided guidance and expertise, it was the dedicated work of three students who made this project come to life.

“Projects like this give enhanced meaning to undergraduate research. The students learned to work on a grant-sponsored project. Not only did they tackle this through primary source research, but they gained first-hand experience conducting ethically, responsible research within the humanities,” said Mahoney.

“The students produced something meaningful and useful for a broader public. Their work also pays respect to the alumni and donors who have invested in our campus – both Branigin for his initial donation of his papers as well as alumni John and Theresa Duffey, whose generous financial contribution made the Honorable Roger Douglas Branigin Archives public display available at Franklin College,” said Clark-Wiltz, who holds the Branigin Chair in History at the college.

Students involved in the project include Mackenzie Taylor, a senior history and elementary education double major from Seymour, Samantha Loyd, a junior history major from Indianapolis (46217) and Evan Graham, a junior sports communication major from Mooresville. Both Taylor and Loyd contributed to the endeavor by selecting the primary sources for the project that best told Branigin’s story, as well as writing the script and digitalizing the images, all according to the IHS’s technical specifications. Graham recorded the audio. His role was unique to the IHS’s Destination Indiana experience as it was the first time someone other than an Indiana Historical Society staff member or a professional voice actor composed the audio voice over. Graham worked with Professor Joel Cramer, using equipment on the Franklin College campus, to perfect the voice work.

Another component of this engaged learning opportunity has been the creation of “civic learning” lesson plans, designed by Taylor and Loyd. These lesson plans use primary sources from the Honorable Roger Douglas Branigin Archives. It is the goal, once completed, for these resources to be made accessible to K-12 teachers through the IHS. Sherri Hall is assisting the students with this element.

This project was meaningful for all involved, shared Clark-Wiltz. “It pulls together the best of who we are and the best of what we can do for our students, for our institution, and for our community.”

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For more information about Franklin College, please contact the Office of Communications at (317) 738-8185.

POSTED Apr 21, 2020