Building a Nation: Indiana Geological Survey

Jan 19

The Indiana Geological and Water Survey at Indiana University has found and refined more than 10,000 photos since beginning this project in 2012. Rediscovered in a house owned by the Indiana Limestone Company, this pictorial project is believed to have 8,800 separate images. The collection, including duplicates, contains more than 26,000 individual photographs.

The collection dates range from the early to mid-1900s. The photos illustrate the Indiana limestone quarries and mills, as well as building sites across the country. The photographs demonstrate the Indiana limestone legacy in building some of the nation’s most iconic buildings. Hundreds of the buildings documented in this collection still stand today in excellent condition, showcasing the strength, beauty and durability of this natural stone.

When rediscovered, the documents were at serious risk, as they were stored in a structure without heat or air conditioning near the Indiana Limestone quarries. To preserve the collection, the Indiana Geological and Water Survey committed to cleaning and scanning the pictures, in addition to creating digital copies and metadata.

“Whether used for the entire building or just as adornments, Indiana limestone has a beauty that transcends time,” said Todd A. Thompson, the Director of the Indiana Geological Survey and State Geologist of Indiana. “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.”

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 stated. “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.”

More than 5,000 photographs are currently available for viewing. Learn more at the Indiana University’s Image Collections Online site.

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