History of the Project
During the early 1990s, Ruth Stone, then director of the Archives of Traditional Music (ATM) of Indiana University (IU), began amassing a collection of documents and other related materials on Liberia from fellow scholars in the field. The idea of the ATM being a center for Liberian Studies was not yet born, but Dr. Stone, a Liberian specialist, made good use of the generosity of her colleagues in developing this collection. Early deposits of Liberian materials came from William Siegmann, Jane Martin, Jeanette Carter, and John and Judy Gay, creating an informal, but quickly growing collection. Initially, these donations came in addition to the audio and video recordings that are the primary format of the ATM´s collections. As these documents acquired a critical mass, the possibility arose of creating an independent repository of the materials on Liberia. Please read more on these scholars and their donations at The Collections of the IU Liberian Collections.
A critical moment for the IU Liberian Collections came in August 1997 when Professor Svend E.Holsoe donated his impressive collection of materials that were the heart of his Institute for Liberian Studies. William Siegmann, Peter Sevareid, and Ruth Stone helped pack up the materials and IU graduate students drove them back to Bloomington, Indiana. This donation became one of two core collections for the IULC.
Later that same year, Professor Warren d´Azevedo expressed an interest in donating his large collection to the ATM. He received a Werner-Gren grant to process his materials at the University of Nevada, Reno and send them to the ATM at IU. This acquisition became the second core collection.
In 1999, the presence and purpose of the IU Liberian Collections was made official by the first IULC Advisory Board Meeting. Svend Holsoe was invited to attend the meeting and was presented with a Chancellor´s Medal by Kenneth Gros Louis, then Chancellor of Indiana University. At this important meeting, the plans were laid for the development of a more cohesive collection on Liberia. The Board also decided to make Indiana University a center for Liberian Studies materials.
The IU Liberian Collections achieved this goal in 2002 when Verlon Stone became the Project Coordinator of the IULC. Today, the IULC works out of its office and processing center at 510 N. Fess Avenue in Bloomington, IN. It is staffed by more than ten graduate and undergraduate work-study students. The complete collections consist of historical and ethnographic documents, newspapers, government publications, books, journals, dissertations, maps, slides, negatives, photographs, microfilms, audio and video tapes, artifacts and memorabilia. Currently, the collections are being processed and made ready for public access and study through the internet and at the Archives of Traditional Music at IU.
Presently, more than 300 boxes of materials are stored at the Archives of Traditional Music vault, the Indiana University (IU) Warehouse, Mathers Museum on IU´s campus or the Liberian Collections Project´s Processing Center at 510 North Fess Avenue on IU´s campus. Fewer than 25 boxes have been completely processed. Processing includes assessing the condition and organization of materials; executing and documenting the physical arrangement of materials; developing finding aids; reboxing and refoldering in acid-free containers; and carrying out conservation work on documents, government publications, microfilms, newspapers, maps, slides, photos and negatives.
Impact of the Project on the Liberian Diaspora
There is a substantial community of Liberian refugees and exiles in the United States who will benefit from the services of the IU Liberian Collections. Such Liberian communities tend to be concentrated in large metropolitan areas of New York City and environs, Washington DC and its Maryland and Virginia extensions, Providence (RI), Brooklyn Park, MN, Atlanta, GA, and a host of other American cities. Some have estimated the exile Liberian population to be nearly 200,000 (and growing).
The IU Liberian Collection's activities will benefit the diaspora communities in numerous ways, including serving as a secure and reliable source of archival information about Liberia; a source for contemporary information through the Friends of Liberia Electronic Clipping Service. Above and beyond the foregoing, the Collections represent a collective effort of its board and Indiana University at re-creating part of the "Liberian National Archives" largely destroyed during a decade long civil war. Generations of Liberians here in the U.S. and in Liberia, as well as scholars interested in Liberian studies will all find here perhaps the largest and richest repository on this African nation and its people.