Toxic Heritage

Collaborative research

Indy Toxic Heritage: Pollution, Place, and Power

By on October 20, 2023

Indy Toxic Heritage: Pollution, Place and Power blends storytelling and historical research to create an exhibit and public conversations that recognize environmental damage and advocacy for justice as part of Indianapolis’s citywide heritage. It is a collaborative project of Indiana University Indianapolis museum studies faculty, Indy Parks & Recreation, Kheprw Institute, and community-based scholars/activists Kaila Austin and Kay Hawthorne.

Community stories and experiences are at the heart of our work. To support that, we’ve created the Indy Toxic Heritage community archive: a crowd-sourced digital repository intended to help document and amplify the perspectives of people living in affected communities. We are also curating a traveling exhibit that is scheduled to open at Indy Parks locations in June 2024.

Our goals are to:

  • 1) deepen critical thinking about Indianapolis’ citywide toxic heritage,
  • 2) amplify the voices of those working in the community for environmental justice, and
  • 3) instigate conversations about how to move toward more sustainable and just futures.
IUI students sit in a circle with Kheprw team discussing environmental justice

Project Timeframe

August 2023-March 2024: Story gathering, community partner meetings, and historical research

  • November 11, 2023, 10-12am, Cultural Compost, Spirit & Place Festival, Broad Ripple Family Center
  • January 20, 2024, 3:15-4:15pm, Cultural Compost Storytelling Workshop, Eco-Justice and Wellness Expo, Friedens United Church of Christ, 8300 S. Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46217
  • March 2, 11am-12:30pm, Environmental Justice Story-Sharing Workshop, Ujamaa Community Bookstore, 2424 Doctor M.L.K. Jr St, Indianapolis, IN 46208
  • March 4, 6-7:30 pm, Environmental Justice Story-Sharing Workshop, Pride Park, 1129 Vandeman Street, Indianapolis, IN

February-May, 2024: Exhibit and program development

June 2024 – Traveling exhibit display at select Indy Parks sites with public programs

Project Team

The Indy Toxic Heritage project team includes Aghilah Nadaraj, Ben Clark, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, Kavita Mahoney, Kaila Austin, Kay Hawthorne, Laura Holzman, and Terra McFarland. Input from community leaders, experts, and advocates has been invaluable. We are indebted to Jordan Ryan, Paula Brooks, Sarah Bowman, Gabe Filippelli, Angie Hermann, Matt Pleasant, Brenda McAtee, Emily Djabi, Simona Reising, Chris Herrell, Leon Bates, and many others.


Project funding has been generously provided by a 2023 Charles R. Bantz Community Fellowship and an Action Grant from Indiana Humanities

Project press

Learn more about Indy Toxic Heritage. Video produced by TRIP (Translating Research into Practice) and McLucas Film Production.

Digital Projects

Indianapolis Toxic Heritage StoryMap collection: Student and faculty-authored StoryMaps:

Digital projects created by students working on the Climates of Inequality project (2018)

  • WHAT’S REALLY IN FALL CREEK? by Farah Gerber. An animated video of the environmental hazards in the Fall Creek waterway, their sources and effects.
  • SITE 0153: A BLOGGER’S HISTORY by Topher Anderson. Stories from the history of Superfund-eligible groundwater contamination Site 0153 (designated in 2013) in Indianapolis’ near west Riverside neighborhood.
  • SWIMMING IN FALL CREEK: A TIMELINE OF COMMUNITY ACTION AND RESISTANCE by Jacqueline Rooksberry. A timeline tracing the history of Fall Creek and the structural racism of environmental pollution.
  • RIVERSIDE RACISM: SEGREGATION AT RIVERSIDE AMUSEMENT PARK by Madison Hincks. Prezi tracing the history of Riverside Amusement Park and intersections of racism and environmental justice.
  • THE FORGOTTEN CANAL by Laura Markley and Dan Will. A StoryMap exploring Central Canal between 16th and 30th Streets and the histories of disparate investment.