Toxic Heritage

Collaborative research

Indy Toxic Heritage: Pollution, Place, and Power

By on October 20, 2023

Project Overview

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 and students, Indy Parks & Recreation, Kheprw Institute, and community-based scholar and activist Kay Hawthorne.

Community stories and experiences are at the heart of our work. To support community-centered story telling, 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:

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

Kheprw team and IU Indy students share environmental justice work.

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
  • March 8, 2024, Indy Toxic Heritage: Storytelling Workshop, IUPUI Social Justice Symposium, IUPUI Campus Center

February-May, 2024: Exhibit and program development

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

Project Team

The Indy Toxic Heritage project team includes Phyllis Boyd, Ben Clark, Kay Hawthorne, Laura Holzman, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, Kavita Mahoney, Terra McFarland, and Aghilah Nadaraj. Input from community leaders, experts, and advocates has been invaluable. We are indebted to Imhotep Adisa, Leon Bates, Paula Brooks, Sarah Bowman, Emily Djabi, Paulette Fair, Gabe Filippelli, Elizabeth (Liz) Gore, Greg (Coach) Harger, Angie Hermann, Chris Herrell, Tim Maher, Brenda McAtee, Matt Pleasant, Simona Reising, Jordan Ryan, 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

Indy Toxic Heritage digital archive, OMEKA-S platform hosted at the University Library, Indiana University Indianapolis.

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.
  • 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.