Guidelines and Procedures - Indiana State Historical Marker Program
Policies Governing the Indiana State Historical Marker Program approved by the Indiana Library and Historical Board (ILHB), revised June 2016, effective starting in 2017.
Topics and Significance
Process to Obtain an Indiana State Historical Marker
Maintenance of Indiana State Historical Markers
Relocation, Removal, or Replacement of Indiana State Historical Markers
Indiana State Historical Markers recognize the statewide, national, or international significance of events, sites, and individuals in Indiana history. The marker program is operated by the Indiana Historical Bureau (IHB), a division of the Indiana State Library.
- Indiana State Historical Markers are intended to commemorate subjects that are especially noteworthy, of lasting impact, or that are representative of major themes in Indiana or American history. Applications for markers must demonstrate statewide or national significance to be considered.
- The topic and facts set forth in the marker text must be supported with reliable primary sources. Historical markers are not intended to editorialize or pass judgment, but aim to set forth straightforward, undisputed, historical facts.
- IHB now avoids the use of subjective and superlative terms such as ‘first,’ ‘best,’ ‘most,’ or ‘last.’ Such claims require extensive research to be truly accurate, and sometimes are not verifiable with extant primary sources.
- Historical marker applications for notable individuals are eligible twenty years after the year of the individual’s death. It is at the discretion of the Indiana Library and Historical Board, upon the recommendation of IHB, to make any exceptions to this guideline.
- Markers for legislators must demonstrate significance with either extensive service on high-profile committees, long-term and influential activity in legislative leadership roles, or involvement with and/or authorship of landmark legislation. Mere service as a member of the United States Congress or Indiana General Assembly will not automatically qualify the person for an Indiana State Historical Marker.
- Applications for Indiana ancestors of notable people will only be considered if said ancestors’ claim to significance does not rest primarily on the accomplishments of their progeny.
- Visits to a site by famous historical figures, such as Abraham Lincoln, will not necessarily make the site eligible for a marker.
- Marker topics, other than individuals, generally should date from at least fifty years from the date on which they occurred.
- Individuals and groups seeking recognition for cemeteries, historic districts or neighborhoods, bridges, historic homes, theaters, public school buildings, and church buildings should contact Indiana Landmarks or Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology for help with historic designations including the National Register of Historic Places, Indiana Register of Historic Sites and Structures , or the Indiana Cemetery and Burial Ground Registry.
- Indiana State Historical Markers are intended to tell the stories behind the locations, as opposed to details about the physical structures alone. Therefore, IHB encourages applications related to historic places to focus on significant events or persons associated with the sites, or how the constituencies of these places significantly contributed to or represented broader cultural, societal, or historical events.
- In an effort to optimize space on an historic marker, IHB prefers not to devote marker text to denote that a building or district is on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). In most cases, a NRHP plaque is likely installed near the proposed marker location. Neither restorers nor current owners of a historic structure may be named in the text of an Indiana State Historical Marker placed at a structure.
- Courthouses and Carnegie libraries may be considered for Indiana State Historical Markers. However, applications for these topics should strive to emphasize significant events or persons associated with these places or explore government history.
- An Indiana State Historical Marker will not be allowed at an archaeological site if its location and/or text might endanger the site. IHB may work with the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and other appropriate parties to make determinations regarding applications that fall under this guideline.
- IHB will not recommend to the Indiana Library and Historical Board approval of more than one marker to honor the same subject in the immediate vicinity, unless there is a compelling reason to do so, such as markers that may be placed at endangered sites.
- ILHB policy dictates that marker applications related to or about indigenous peoples require that IHB: notify relevant tribal authorities or elders that the application has been received; ask tribal authorities or elders for comments on the application; and ask tribal authorities for comments on the marker text.
- IHB recognizes the difficulties of confirming Underground Railroad sites and determining fact from local lore. We encourage applicants interested in these topics to consult primary sources such as contemporary newspaper accounts, diaries, court cases, and oral histories and evaluate them in conjunction with one another when possible in order to substantiate the claims. While post-contemporary written accounts are not sufficient evidence in and of themselves, when put in communication with primary sources they can help support the assertions.
IHB establishes dates, timelines, guidelines and procedures for applying for new Indiana State Historical Markers.
Obtaining an Indiana State Historical Marker is a competitive process with multiple steps, each with specific requirements and time frames. The following sections are designed to guide anyone interested in obtaining an Indiana State Historical Marker through the process. IHB staff are available to answer questions at any point in this process.
IHB will publish specific deadline dates and priorities for an annual process of obtaining new Indiana State Historical Markers following the steps outlined below.
Please contact Casey Pfeiffer, Marker Program Manager, with questions.
Step 1. Marker Application
Applications for an Indiana State Historical Marker are accepted once a year. (The cycle usually opens in April). The completed application must be received by IHB by the published deadline (usually mid-July).
- IHB welcomes queries on possible applications ahead of the deadline, and can give feedback on whether the topic meets IHB significance guidelines. IHB also offers resources to help with the application process.
- Applicants seeking markers to commemorate time-sensitive anniversaries should plan ahead and apply at the deadline the year before the marker is needed.
- Only one marker may be requested on the application.
- IHB will determine the number of applications that can reasonably be processed during the annual cycle.
IHB staff will review each Application submitted by the published deadline, using the following criteria:
- Historical significance
- Is the topic especially noteworthy?
- Does the subject have a lasting impact on the state, national, or global level?
- Is the topic representative of major themes in Indiana or American history?
- IHB-designated priorities, including:
- Historically underrepresented racial, ethnic, or immigrant groups and women’s history in Indiana.
- Counties with 0-3 markers.
- Historically significant anniversaries occurring during the application cycle.
- Completeness of the application, including:
- Photocopied or scanned primary sources or links to digitized primary sources.
- Significance and Documentation Worksheet.
- Preliminary draft of the marker’s text.
- Letter(s) of support from community or cultural organizations.
- Any details about planned programs, exhibits, or educational initiatives that amplify the educational value of the historical marker.
- Compliance with Indiana State Historical Marker Program Guidelines and Procedures and specific deadline requirements published annually.
Step 2. Action of Indiana Library and Historical Board
- After review of the applications, IHB staff and Marker Advisory Committee will submit their recommendations to the Indiana Library and Historical Board (ILHB).
- At the September meeting, ILHB will vote to approve or disapprove the applications.
- After ILHB's decision, IHB will notify applicants whether or not their marker topics were selected to become Indiana State Historical Markers.
- Approved applications will proceed to the next steps.
Step 3. The Marker Text
IHB, working with its advisers, has final authority for the text of an Indiana State Historical Marker. IHB will edit the marker text, which must conform to IHB research standards. IHB will not include information in a marker text unless IHB has been able to verify that information with appropriate primary source documentation located by IHB or provided by the applicant. IHB staff may conduct a reasonable amount of additional research to verify information, supplement the suggested text, or strengthen the information set forth in the applicant marker text. In some cases, IHB staff may entirely re-draft the applicant’s proposed marker text so that it fully complies with IHB standards and guidelines.
IHB will work with the applicant in determining the final text for the marker. Due to time constraints, IHB staff will only receive comments on the marker text from the individual or individuals listed on the application. If an interested person or party is not listed on the application, the applicant may act as a point person for receiving, assessing, and communicating external feedback to IHB staff.
The applicant must accept the final text, using the Applicant Acceptance of Text form provided by IHB, before the marker can be ordered; failure to return the signed form by the stated deadline may result in delays in manufacturing the marker.
Because of the spacing restrictions on a marker, IHB staff may share additional information or research about the marker topic that may not have been included in the marker text itself on its Indiana History Blog, Indiana Almanac, or through other IHB programs. Doing so allows IHB to expand on and share these stories statewide and reach audiences that may never pass by the physical historical marker.
Step 4: Determining the Site for an Indiana State Historical Marker
A location associated with or closely related to the topic of an Indiana State Historical Marker is the preferred location for installation. If the original or authentic location for a marker is not accessible—or might be endangered—the marker may be placed in an appropriate alternate location nearby with the approval of IHB.
- Indiana State Historical Markers should be installed in conspicuous places that are safely accessible to the public. Desirable locations are cultural trails, public highways with pull-offs, parks, and city sidewalks where persons can easily stop and read the text for its educational value.
- IHB may require a change in location from the one proposed by the applicant due to safety concerns or easement issues.
Step 5: Ordering and Installation of an Indiana State Historical Marker
IHB will recommend the purchase and installation of a marker to the Indiana Library and Historical Board (ILHB) as part of the final approval process. IHB recommendations to ILHB shall be based upon the research, sources, and interpretation of the topic provided by IHB, working with its advisers and the applicant.
The following items must be received by IHB before an approved marker can be ordered. Failure to provide items by the stated deadline as requested by IHB will result in delays in ordering and receiving the finished marker.
- Applicant Acceptance of Recommended Text Form: IHB will send this form to the applicant after the marker has been approved for ordering and installation by ILHB. The applicant must complete this form.
- A business address must be used as the delivery location, even if the marker will be installed on private property, as per our vendor standards.
- Ownership and Permission Form: This form gives authorization from the property owner to install a marker at a site. The property owner is required to complete this form. Any other permits/permissions must be obtained by applicants, with the exception of permissions concerning state rights-of-way. IHB will obtain permits for markers to be installed on state rights-of-way. Markers installed within city rights-of-way often require encroachment licenses and/or other permits from the city. It is in the applicant's best interest to begin working on site permission early in the process to avoid any delays with ordering the marker.
- Marker Payment: The applicant and/or the marker sponsors must provide full funding ($3,300 for standard two-sided markers) to IHB, a division of the Indiana State Library, to purchase the Indiana State Historical Marker. Note: Applicants will receive an invoice for the marker from the Indiana State Library. If an applicant does not meet deadlines, resulting in a delay in completion of the process, the price of the marker may increase.
- Applicants are responsible for installation of the marker, which may incur extra cost.
- IHB will provide instructions for proper installation of markers to the applicant and/or another designated entity.
Step 6: Dedication of an Indiana State Historical Marker
IHB encourages applicants to hold a public dedication ceremony for an Indiana State Historical Marker after it has been installed so that communities can commemorate both the topic of the marker and installation of the marker. IHB also encourages the dedication ceremony to be in coordination with related educational programming, museum exhibits, or community celebrations.
The following credit line must be included on any printed materials and in verbal presentations: “This marker is made possible through the Indiana Historical Bureau, a division of the Indiana State Library.”
After receiving dedication information from applicants, IHB will issue a statewide press release to publicize the dedication. If possible, a representative of IHB will attend the dedication ceremony.
Step 7: Photographic Documentation of an Indiana State Historical Marker
Applicants must provide to IHB photographic documentation (digital images are preferred) of the installed marker in the approved location. These photographs are important for promoting the marker and for future care and maintenance of the marker. Images and media coverage will also be posted to IHB’s website.
- Applicants must notify IHB when markers have been installed, and include photographs and physical location of the marker (GPS coordinates preferred).
IHB encourages cooperative relationships for day-to-day site maintenance with local governments and private entities on whose land an Indiana State Historical Marker is installed.
- Any Indiana State Historical Marker needing repairs must be reported to IHB. Marker repairs must conform to the official state format as described in IC 4-23-7.2-11 and to IHB repair instructions. IHB will work with local entities to maintain or repair existing Indiana State Historical Markers with support as possible from IHB funds that may be available for that purpose.
- Local site maintenance help for Indiana State Historical Markers is desirable, but is not required for the approval of a marker.
- IHB may authorize temporary removal of a marker for maintenance. In an emergency situation, IHB may authorize the removal and disposition of markers that have been damaged or are at risk.
All State Historical Markers, “including state format markers installed after 1945 and markers installed by the Indiana Civil War centennial commission, are the property of the state.” IC 4-23-7.2-11(a).
Questions about marker maintenance should be referred to IHB’s Marker Program Manager, or call 317-232-2535.
If an Indiana State Historical Marker is deliberately or accidentally installed in an unapproved location by the applicant and/or another entity, and if reinstallation at the approved location is required by IHB, the applicant and/or the other entity will be responsible for all costs associated with the removal and reinstallation at the approved location.
All costs associated with moving a marker must be paid by the party desiring the relocation. Markers may be relocated for the following reasons:
- because of persistent vandalism in the current location,
- if a hazard to viewers may be reduced or eliminated,
- if a more accurate location has been determined,
- if a change in land use has occurred putting the marker in danger, or
because of temporary construction work.
Indiana State Historical Markers may be relocated or removed only with the approval of the Indiana Library and Historical Board (ILHB) upon the recommendation of IHB. IHB may authorize temporary removal of a marker for maintenance work. In an emergency situation, IHB may authorize the removal and disposition of markers that have been damaged or are at risk.
Indiana State Historical Markers containing incorrect information may be removed with the approval of the ILHB upon the recommendation of IHB.
When replacement of an Indiana State Historical Marker is requested because it has been damaged or stolen, or because the text contains errors, the marker shall be reviewed by IHB according to marker guidelines in effect when replacement is requested. Some marker replacements may require the applicant to complete the full application process.