The Corn School by Jessie Hull Mayer

Recipient: Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis University Library, Indianapolis, IN

Grant Program: National Leadership Grant

Title of Project: IUPUI and the Indianapolis Museum of Art Community Project

Contact: Sonja Staum, Project Director



Knowing that art can be a powerful teaching tool in the K–12 classroom, the IUPUI University Library sought to provide a value-added resource for education. By providing a gateway to online artwork databases for local schools and public libraries, they succeeded in creating a powerful tool for teaching and learning.

Librarians from the IUPUI University Library and the Herron Art Library, a branch of the University Library, saw an opportunity to collaborate with other local libraries, museums, and schools to make art images accessible for learners of all ages. The library had experience negotiating database licensing contracts and had long supported the university’s master’s program for art education and local K–12 art teachers.

The librarians knew that small schools and libraries could not afford art databases on their own and that many teachers lacked the technology skills to make the most of electronic resources. The IUPUI project not only provided schools and libraries with valuable art databases, it also hosted workshops for teachers and librarians and became a source for curriculum units and other art links through its Web site.

The resulting collaboration between IUPUI libraries and their partners became a model for successful library-museum-school cooperation and enabled teachers to integrate art into classes of all disciplines in a way that engages and inspires students.

Henrik Martin Mayer, Rural Delivery (detail)

Within the goal of setting up the library-museum-school partnership and documenting how the community is served and education is enhanced, the library aimed to do the following:

  • Demonstrate how a university library can provide access to emerging technologies and networked services to regional schools and public libraries,
  • Explore cost-sharing among regional institutions to provide licensed access to resources that might otherwise be beyond the reach of some local institutions, and
  • Blend content of educational program and curriculum, digital images/text, and museum resources to provide enriched experiences for learners of all ages.

Even before the grant was written, the project leaders knew they needed input from their target audiences—teachers, museum educators, and librarians—on what those audiences most needed. They conducted focus groups to gather that information and to understand what "action items" needed to be written into the grant so these groups could be actively involved. For instance, teachers drove the content of the curriculum units because they knew what they were required to teach. From the formation of the advisory group to the final creation of new local cultural digital resources, teachers, museum educators, and librarians were highly involved in all phases of the project.

With the critical end-user involvement built in at the beginning, the project partners went on to host six professional development workshops for teachers and librarians (including a weeklong summer institute) and to develop instructional units that integrated selected images. The project provided access to these electronic resources for nearly a hundred schools and public libraries—all school districts within surrounding counties of Marion County—and served as a catalyst in the development of twenty-eight curriculum units. Other products included a CD-ROM with art images and brochures that were distributed widely to school districts and at conferences within Indiana.

Hundreds of teachers benefited from either the professional training or the digital art images. As a consequence, many children enjoyed lessons in a variety of disciplines that were made more exciting by art. The IUPUI University Library learned that it could play a unique and successful role as a neutral partner and catalyst to integrate educational activities and resources in museums, schools, and libraries. The project served as a gateway to digital images and text resources for use in lifelong learning activities and provided a framework for schools and libraries to continue using these resources after the completion of the project.

A couple of unanticipated activities resulted in some of the most popular offerings for local teachers and lifelong learners. Project leaders learned that the Johnson County Public Library had in storage about ten original turn-of-the-century paintings by artists from the Hoosier Salon. At the Franklin High School in Johnson County, an art teacher had just selected the Hoosier artists for her annual mural project with her students. With funding from the grant, project leaders were able to hire a photographer, take photos and make transparencies of the paintings, scan them, and upload the digital files on the project Web site. The high school students selected images from the Web site and created beautiful murals that were also included on the site, along with student-written biographies of the artists. Without the digital reproduction work provided by the project, the students would not have had such ease of access to the works of art less than two miles away at their public library, and the larger Web site audience would not have had access to the works, which had not been on public view.

In addition, the project managers learned about a photographer who had created a book for the local historical society on Hoosier mural painters. The photographer granted the project leaders permission to upload scans of his photographs of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) mural paintings on the project Web site. The two additional Web pages, the Hoosier Artists Project and the Works Progress Administration, are exceptional additions to the project Web collection. They include beautiful digital images and related curriculum activities and exemplify the success of this collaborative project.

National Leadership Grants for Libraries