About the History Center Digital Collections
The History Center Digital Collections offer unparalled access to many of the thousands of photos, documents, maps, manuscripts, and other valuable historical materials owned by the History Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We are initiating this project with a portion of our collection we call That Glorious Gate which is described below. The digital collections, selected to augment and reinforce our educational programs, are being developed through a partnership with the Helmke Library at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. As funding becomes available, we will add additional content.
We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please use the link on the “View the Collections” page to provide us your feedback.
That Glorious Gate
The first few pieces of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society’s enviable cartographical collection have hit the big time, serving historians, students, researchers, and map-buffs across the globe. The Society’s first digitization program for external education, entitled “That Glorious Gate” after Chief Little Turtle’s famed denotation of his tribe’s ancestral homelands, is the product of a wonderful collaboration with Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Walter E. Helmke Library. Funded in part by a Library Services and Technology Act grant administered by the Indiana State Library, “That Glorious Gate” includes the digitization and public display of 160 maps, a tantalizing slice of the Society’s 453 total maps. Also included in the project are 240 pieces of archival, ephemeral, and photographical materials, including prints, letters, flyers, certificates, tickets and other items sampling the Society’s rich collection related to its interpretive theme of ‘Location.’ Since 2002 the Society’s has infused its holistic “Nine Interpretive Themes of History,” within which ‘Location’ is one of the most attractive and pedagogically potent themes, into all on-site and off-site educational offerings. Through “That Glorious Gate” the Society has established the template for future digitization collaborations and additional digital collections.
The peculiar location and correlating heritage of transportation in Fort Wayne, Allen County, and Northeast Indiana are some of the richest and most monumental histories of our region, nurturing our community into the international provider it is today. From the western terminus of the Great Black Swamp to the pivot of the continental divide the geography of our community has shaped our character and heritage from the ground up. The Miami Indians, once one of the largest tribes in the Great Lakes Region, grew some of the largest harvests in North America in Kekionga’s bountiful grounds and later became one of the most powerful peoples in the Midwest through their control of the nine-mile portage between the Confluence of the Three Rivers and the Little (Wabash) River. This area was also a flourishing frontier community and long-distance interchange for some of the earliest explorers, missionaries, and voyageurs in what would become the state of Indiana. Later the area flourished with one of the most ambitious plank road systems in the Midwest and also became a major exchange point on the longest manmade waterway in the Western Hemisphere, the Wabash-Erie Canal. With the dawn of mechanized transportation the area connected so many railways that they “radiated from Fort Wayne like spokes of a wheel” across the continent and eventually became a central point on the first transcontinental automobile roadway, the Lincoln Highway. Yet for all this history and heritage our community’s unique location and tradition of progressive transportation go largely unnoticed, untold, and without laudation.
The historical scope of the above mentioned maps and associated pieces digitized through this project reach from some of the earliest cartographic depictions of our area from the mid-18th century to maps of today. These include the spectrum of contents from standard geographical detailings of waterways and elevations, to the various and continuing transportation booms of the 19th and 20th centuries, to representations of historical lifeways and cultural developments. By presenting the cross-chronologies of physically constant yet perpetually shifting locations in the contextually ripe format of a related series of maps and location-related materials, students, researchers, and the public at large will be able to utilize critical thinking skills and independent visualization to bolster their sense of place and value of Northeast Indiana.