Center for Middletown Studies Research
Welcome to the Center for Middletown Studies Research site. Follow the links below to learn more about the Center’s past and present research initiatives. In the years since Robert and Helen Lynd completed their seminal studies of Muncie, Indiana, scholars working in a variety of fields have returned to Muncie to follow up on their pioneering work, making this small city among the most studied communities in the nation. The Center continues this tradition by sponsoring and promoting research on Muncie as Middletown, on small cities generally, on the sociocultural impact of large-scale economic change, and on other themes and issues the Lynds explored. Increasingly the Center’s has emphasized collaborative and inclusive scholarship that engages and empowers the community. It also employs digital tools and technology, particularly in partnership with Ball State’s Digital Scholarship Lab to advance research and teaching in these areas.
Wellness among Afghans in Muncie
Jennifer Erickson, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Assistant Director of the Center for Middletown Studies is working with a team of professors from CSH, the College of Health, and Teacher’s College to provide a needs assessment of Afghans in Muncie. This pilot program in spring 2023 leads classes for Afghans on topics related to health and wellness, parenting, financial literacy, and education, while also gathering data from women and men about their lives in Afghanistan and the benefits and challenges of life in Muncie. The goal of the class is to introduce Afghans new neighbors to education and resources in Muncie, promote health, wellness, self-sufficiency, and a sense of belonging, and to learn more about this population in Muncie so that we can offer relevant services.
Deep Mapping Middletown
Deep Mapping Middletown is a joint effort of the Institute for Digital Intermedia Art (IDIA) Lab and the Center for Middletown Studies to create a detailed multimedia depiction of Muncie, Indiana, that capitalizes on the extensive archive created by the century of social research focused on the city as a result of its role in Middletown, Robert and Helen Lynd’s pathbreaking investigation of modern American life. In Summer, 2022, the Center for Middletown Studies and IDIA Lab will host a hybrid (in-person/virtual) workshop for a select group of scholars who will devise a plan for designing and developing Deep Maps of the city that rest upon the rich archive of material generated by researchers who have studied Muncie as “Middletown,” from the Lynds’ initial 1920s investigation down to the present.
Initial work on the project has been supported by Ball State University’s Sponsored Projects Administration and the George and Frances Ball Foundation.
Documenting Deindustrialization: the Middletown Digital Oral Histories
The Center for Middletown Studies has working to create a historical record of economic and social changes in “Middletown”—Muncie, Indiana—and their impact on the life of the community. A key facet of this effort has been a series of oral history projects examining different aspects of the transition from a manufacturing-based community to a city dominated by a large state university and a regional hospital.
Since 2001, the Center for Middletown Studies has convened periodic multidisciplinary conferences devoted to examining the history, present challenges, and future prospects of communities that are neither metropolitan centers nor small towns
A Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry project headed by Elizabeth Agnew (Philosophy and Religious Studies) and undertaken in collaboration with the Islamic Center of Muncie, Muslims in Muncie produced an hour-long documentary and archived twenty-two oral history interviews that examine the experiences of local Muslim residents from the 1960s to the 2010s
Workers and Industry in Muncie, Indiana, 1880-2012
Graduate Students Brendan White (History/Center for Middletown Studies) and Ike Obi (Digital Scholarship Lab) constructed a timeline of labor history in Muncie, Indiana, covering the period from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century.
The Center for Middletown Studies collaborated with the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts and University Libraries to create Virtual Middletown, a 3-D simulation of 1920s Muncie that draws on the archival record generated by Middletown research
Building on its What Middletown Read Project, the Center held a conference devoted to the theme of “Print Culture Histories Beyond the Metropolis” in 2013
From 2009-2011, Ball State’s Institute for Digital Education and Entertainment and the Center for Middletown Studies jointly produced Changing Gears, a feature-length documentary film about the 2009 closing of Muncie’s century-old Warner Gear auto parts plant and the loss of industry in the city
Adolescent Well-Being in Muncie
The Adolescent Well-Being in Muncie project was a collaborative partnership between the Center for Middletown Studies and the Department of Sociology to establish an interdisciplinary immersive learning course.