There are many places to look for information about Bloomington's past. The list below is not complete and should be added to as Bloomingpedia members happen upon useful pieces of information. Be as specific as possible when highlighting a research vector.
- 1 Monroe County Public Library
- 2 Indiana University Library
- 3 Monroe County Historical Society
- 4 Print
- 5 Video
- 6 Online
The MCPL contains many primary and secondary reference materials of interest to a student of Bloomington and Monroe County History. Most of the local history is contained in the Indiana Room on the upper floor of the library.
Polk City Directories
Located in the Indiana Room, these are a boon to local history researchers. Polk is a company that did annual surveys of municipalities and indexed local people, businesses and other structures. While some Polk directories go back to the mid-1700s, the Bloomington directories go back to the early 1900s. Most are available in print form (they do not circulate, so you cannot check them out), while some are only available on microfiche. Each year's directory is indexed in a variety of ways: by name, business, category, or by street address. There is no electronic version of these records maintained and the library does not subscribe to the Polk online database services. Polk's online website doesn't contain historical versions of the directory, so it is of limited use for historical research.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
These are sets of maps that were made and published by the Sanborn Map & Publishing Company, New York City, as far back as 1883. They include maps of the main part of Bloomington and outlines of the buildings and something notes about the building.
The Indiana Room maintains an extensive set of newspaper clippings from 1960s on. They are indexed in a book that can be obtained from the Indiana Room desk. Subject indexes range from classes of information, individual people, or businesses. Residents are not allowed to browse through the vertical file cabinets, but may request individual folders for perusal in the Indiana Room. They may not be taken out of the room.
City Council Minutes
The library maintains an extensive archive of city council minutes, going back to the 1960s. They are found to the immediate left after you walk in the door in the stacks toward the window overlooking Kirkwood. Most of these are photocopies of minutes and may not be checked out.
There are many local history books available in the Indiana Room. In addition to Bloomington, the Indiana Room maintains histories of Indiana University, Monroe County, and other municipalities and counties in the area. Not all of the content in the Indiana Room is relevant to Bloomington.
The librarians in the Indiana Room are very knowledgeable about the resources in the room. Feel free to approach them with questions about what you want to find. It's likely they know where to look.
The Indiana University Library system contains a huge amount of information about Indiana University and Bloomington history. A trip to any of the libraries yields access to a number of online databases and inter-library material loans. (ILLs)
The Monroe County Historical Society is very interested in researching and preserving local history. They have a wide range of interests and are familiar with local research resources. If you have a question about finding information, MCHS staff and volunteers should be able to tell you if a resource exists that can help you. They also maintain temporary and permanent exhibits as well as primary reference sources and materials for sale and public review.
- WTIU Business Perspectives - WTIU program that ran from 1981 to 1997, spotlighting local and regional businesses.
Indiana University Databases
Indiana University students, faculty and staff have online access to almost all of the research tools to which the University subscribes. This includes Lexis-Nexis, which contains an archive of Herald Times articles, and Proquest, where pdf's of Sanborn maps are available. Non-IU affiliated citizens may browse these databases from the main library.
The Herald Times Online
The Herald Times maintains an online archive of their newspaper articles going back to the early 1980s. The HT website requires a monthly subscription to access the content, so articles aren't available to the public. (Recall that a lot of the HT content is available at the Monroe County Public Library or via Lexis-Nexis searches) Users can do full-text searches using boolean operators. They may also restrict the search to a specific date range.
Large and pervasive search engines, such as Google and Google Groups, provide a good way to find anecdotal information and history from a wide range of sources. Because the material can be submitted by anyone (much like Bloomingpedia!), the information needs to be verified as much as possible before being accepted. When possible try and find at least two sources for a particular piece of information.
You might consider asking a question or searching through the Research Questions section in the Bloomingpedia Forums at http://forums.bloomingpedia.org/. Some people may be able to answer your questions about facts or point you in the right direction.
Here are some websites that we have found that have good information. Sometimes its opinionated, but a lot of facts are mixed in:
- Kevin Atkin's "My Favorite Things About Bloomington"
- Clear Creek township website - Has several articles about famous people and historical moments.
- IU Timeline
- INMONROE-L is a mailing list for genealogists interested in Monroe County. Volunteers at the Monroe County History Center transcribe various items of historical interest and post them to the list.
GPS Coordinate help
Sometimes it can be useful to use GPS coordinates to specify an exact location or find the distance between two locations. Some articles list their coordinates.