The purpose of the original
Middletown study was to gauge the impact of rapid industrialization during the
early 20th century. A hundred years later, both Muncie and the nation are in
the midst of another dramatic transformation, the shift from a manufacturing
based to a knowledge driven economy. The center now seeks to document this transformation and its impact on
Muncie and the Midwest.
Small Cities Research
The Lynds and their
sponsors conceived of Middletown as a
“small city study.” In keeping with that idea, the center has made the
investigation of small-city experiences a key part of its research agenda.
Since 2001, the center has convened periodic Small Cities Conferences. These meetings have
brought together scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss
and analyze the history, present condition, and future prospects of
nonmetropolitan cities both in the U.S. and abroad. It has produced numerous
publications in connection with the conference and now sponsors a Comparative
Urban Studies publication series with Lexington Books that encourages research
on smaller and mid-sized urban settings.
Digital Humanities Scholarship
The Center seeks to
capitalize on the new tools and techniques made possible by emerging media. It built the What Middletown Read database, a large
body of searchable, digitized library records that document virtually every
book that every patron checked out of the Muncie Public Library from 1892 to
1902. It recently launched the Virtual Middletown Project, which reproduces online
three-dimensional interpretations of Muncie’s past that draw upon Middletown
research and archival material. The center also continues to work with University Libraries to digitize materials
connected to Middletown research and to develop virtual and web environments derived
from the extensive records of research on the city.
center supports Ball State faculty seeking to develop and implement immersive learning experiences for students. Past projects
include Changing Gears and Adolescent Well-Being in
Middletown (undertaken with the Department of Sociology),
and the Middletown Theatre Project.