This material was provided by the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood Association
This past spring semester, IUPUI students enrolled in Professor Susan Hyatt’s Ethnographic Methods class studied various aspects of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood.
Projects ranged from examining the process of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood Association meetings, to experiencing the food and the community at Fall Creek Gardens, to analyzing historical items of the former Jewish temple at 34th and Ruckle Streets. Students presented their findings to the community on April 28 at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church.
Typically, ethnography focuses on the study of a culture through immersion. For this semester’s Ethnographic Methods class, Professor Hyatt restricted the parameters of the study to the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood, or “culture.” Past classes have studied other neighborhoods in the city, including the Community Heights Neighborhood on the Eastside and the Babe Denny Neighborhood on the Southside. Professor Hyatt is always looking for interesting neighborhoods that are relatively close to the IUPUI campus. She has been interested in Mapleton-Fall Creek for some time because of its rich history.
For the project, students broke into groups and selected a subject in the neighborhood they found most interesting. Students were required to conduct interviews, look at archived information, and even participate in community activities. The final product included a presentation that summarized the students’ experiences.
Brian Laws, a first year IUPUI graduate student in applied anthropology, and his group focused on the temple at 34th and Ruckle Streets, also known as Congregation Beth-El Zedeck. The group conducted interviews with people who lived in the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood prior to the temple’s initial closure in 1957, those who were members of one of the congregations that used the Temple, or anyone with expert knowledge of the temple and neighborhood. The group also gathered archival information on the temple. Laws said he was impressed with how much information was available.
“Through the state library and the archives at the Indiana Historical Society, I discovered that the Beth-El Zedeck congregation was very active with supporting the U.S. military during World War II,” Laws said. “Their support was much larger than I considered previously.”
Laws’ presentation, “Friday Night is Temple Night” uses pictures to tell the history of the temple. Slides include a 1923 Indianapolis News article on the Temple’s construction, social functions from the 1940s, and a Confirmation group from 1957.
Another group’s presentation, titled “The Roots of the Food Community: a Closer Look at Mapleton-Fall Creek,” describes Fall Creek Gardens and shows the student group meeting neighbors and helping in the garden. The presentation also reviews the programs and initiatives of Fall Creek Gardens, such as the Stone Soup Kitchen “teaching garden” and the Unleavened Bread Café.
One of the student groups had its members attend Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood Association meetings, in order to get a sense of what is important to residents. This group focused on several different aspects of Mapleton-Fall Creek – health, especially among the elderly population; Fall Creek and the combined sewage overflow; and the accessibility of exercise and bike ridership in the neighborhood. The majority of this group’s research methods included participant observation, interviews, and historical research. The group combined their results into an online story map.
Erin Hannon, who studied the health and elderly population of Mapleton-Fall Creek, also attended several neighborhood association meetings. She noticed the energy of the residents and their desire to make the neighborhood a more positive place, especially through eliminating crime. “I definitely enjoyed the spirit of the people of Mapleton-Fall Creek,” she said. “Mapleton-Fall Creek neighbors have a drive like little other areas of Indianapolis, and I truly think that some good will be done by the neighbors and CDC (community development corporation).”
Hannon will be returning to IUPUI this summer to meet with Professor Hyatt and wrap up some parts of her project.
Student presentations have not been compiled and finalized online yet; however, the three projects mentioned in this article can be viewed here. Those interested in learning more about the Mapleton-Fall Creek project may contact Professor Susan Hyatt at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the spring of 2016, Professor Hyatt will teach the same class, and it is probable that the class will, once again, focus on Mapleton-Fall Creek.