By: Rachna Chaudhari, Bicentennial Intern, Class of 2018, Biology, Bloomington
My research for the IU Bicentennial has focused on the life of Andrew Wylie, the first president of Indiana University. Researching so far back in time proved to be more difficult than I expected. A lot of records exist, which was fantastic but also overwhelming.
At the same time, the exquisite handwriting used in the 19th century was hard to decipher.
I felt like all the time spent learning cursive in elementary school did not prove very useful when trying to read this difficult handwriting. Using the archives is a much more hands-on experience than just searching through the internet.
You get to touch actual artifacts and read manuscripts that people were looking at over one hundred years ago. It makes the whole process of research much more interesting and rewarding.
It might be commonly known that Andrew Wylie was the first president of Indiana University. However, the point of my project was to dig deeper and find out exactly what life was like for him and others in the 19th century. The central question was, what was Indiana University like during its founding years?
To answer this question I used a variety of primary sources from family correspondence, store records, sermons, lectures, and financial documents. I was lucky enough that the family correspondence and some inventory was transcribed and made available to me by the Wylie House Museum.
Thank you, Sherry, Sarah and Carey for all of your help!
Another cool aspect of my project involved recent artifacts found by Sherry Wise during construction of the Morton C. Bradley, Junior Education Center in 2009. Sherry worked on a lot on the artifacts, cleaning them, piecing them back together, but besides that not much was done with them.
I am taking photographs of these artifacts so they can potentially be included in the IU Photo Archives Collection.
At first, I did not know what exactly my project entailed and what I was looking for. Once I gained a better understanding of this, I dug deep into the research.
Using the family correspondence was a great way to get a glimpse back in time and understand what relevant subject matter was being discussed and who was being talked about.
I wrote a series of personal blogs that looked back into various topics and themes that people nowadays may find interesting to read about. I also wanted to use one of the programs, TimelineJS or StoryMap as well because I wanted to gain experience with these programs.
I decided that it made more sense to do a StoryMap since I am not looking at chronological series of events, but rather life in general in the 19th century.
I am going to create a StoryMap that showcases all the artifacts and where they would have been found when they were in utilization. Theophilus Andrew Wylie’s grandson created a sketch map of the Wylie property, and I will be using that as the background.
I have learned interesting historical information about Indiana University that I did not know before this internship. Through this internship, I got to meet with the IU Art Museum photographer, Kevin Montague, and gained knowledge about how to take a good photos of the artifacts.
I worked a lot with April Sievert and Liz Watts at the Glenn Black Lab and learned a lot about historical archaeology. I also got to tour the Wylie House Museum and go up in the attic, something that is not open to the public!