During the Depression of the 1930's, the administration of President Frank Delano Roosevelt established the Works Project Administration, known widely as the WPA. This agency funded many public projects which resulted in improved parks, new public buildings, and better roads. Funding was also made available for individuals and agencies such as artists, writers, and theater groups. As part of the Federal Writers' Program, writers in each state of the union gathered information for completion both for volumes in the American Guide Series and for local guides and histories. These publications were to serve as introductions to the unique cultural heritage of each state.
The Indiana Writers' Project became the Indiana Writers' Program in 1939 when administrative control of the projects was turned over to the states. In 1941, Indiana: A Guide to the Hoosier State appeared. Due to the pressures caused by World War II, the Program was discontinued in 1943. Because Indiana State Teachers College, now Indiana State University, sponsored the Program, the files became its property.
In a collection of 36 cubic feet, the files were kept first in boxes and later transferred to file cabinets, as duplicate copies were culled from the files, resulting in approximately 60,000 pages of material on a multitude of aspects of life in all 92 counties, as well as materials on James Whitcomb Riley, the Report of the Buffalo Trace Commission, photographs intended for possible use in the guidebook to the state, statewide materials, and administrative materials dealing with the Program.
As one might expect, much of the material collected and organized by the writers was excluded from publications and remains an important source for local history and folkways research. The microfilm itself is available for purchase from Indiana State University Library. For additional information, including how to obtain a copy of the 31-reel microfilm set, individual microfilm reels, or the printed guide, use the provided form, the e-mail link at the top of the page, or call 812/237-2610.
Some of the materials available in the printed Guide have been reproduced as Web pages. You may select them below for viewing or from the Quick Links Page.