The Muncie (Indiana) Public Library, the Center for Middletown Studies, and Ball State University Libraries announce the opening of the “What Middletown Read” online database (www.bsu.edu/libraries/wmr). A unique digital resource for researchers interested in the cultural history of industrializing America, the database reproduces the circulation records of the Muncie Public Library between 1891 and 1902, along with individual details about each borrower and book. It gives us an unparalleled glimpse into the world of readers as it existed more than a century ago in Muncie, Indiana, the city made famous as “Middletown.”
The records of the Muncie Public Library that form the basis of the What Middletown Read Database came to light during the 2003 renovation of its downtown Carnegie branch. Frank Felsenstein, Reed D. Voran Honors Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Ball State University, came across a collection of dusty ledgers pertaining to the old library that was housed in Muncie's City Building. They listed all of its patrons, books, and circulation transactions for a period that begins on November 6, 1891 and ends on December 3, 1902, with one interruption. Felsenstein enlisted the Center for Middletown Studies and Ball State University Libraries in constructing a searchable digital version of these handwritten records, which are now freely available to the public. The online database includes details on more than 6,300 borrowers, 11,000 books, and 174,000 circulation transactions.
“What Middletown Read” was funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and Ball State University.
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