NAME: Mark Vopelak

TITLE: Manuscripts and Rare Books Supervisor FOR: Indiana State Library

SINCE? 2007

ORIGINALLY FROM? Groton, Connecticut

YOUR JOB DUTIES INCLUDE? Running the day to day operations of the Manuscript section which includes patron service, scanning, preservation, processing and maintaining collections, creating finding aids, supervising interns, temps, and volunteers, creating exhibits, and answering questions via phone, internet and Question Point.


PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD TO HAVE BEEN PART OF? Microfilming our most important and historically valuable collections. Digitizing the John Tipton Collection and our World War I posters.

OTHER PROJECTS WE MIGHT RECOGNIZE? The Indianapolis Fire Department Digital exhibit hosted by IMCPL. Many of the photographs came from the Adkinson collection at the Indiana State Library.

WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO ? Educating the public on the importance of preservation in general and Indiana history in particular.

WORST PART OF WHAT YOU DO? The traffic getting to work especially when IUPUI is in session. Also, many of the materials I handle are extremely dirty, so I wash my hands frequently.

HOW YOU DEFINE PERSONAL SUCCESS? Using one’s education and experience to make a difference.

ADVICE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO WHAT YOU DO? Be passionate about the profession. Also, get the proper training\education, pay your dues and have fun.

IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH RELATING TO YOUR JOB/CAREER/ORGANIZATION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? To get the state’s records out of the warehouse on Shadeland Ave. and into a proper and new State Archives building.

WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT TO WHERE YOU ARE WITHOUT? My mother who has always encouraged and supported me.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? When your father was an officer in the United States Navy you learn motivation at an early age. For me personally, it doesn’t take much. It is simply the desire to ensure that the manuscripts and other materials I deal with will be around long after I’m gone.

WHO WERE/ARE YOUR MENTORS AND HOW DID THEY HELP? Dr. Clifton Potter, British History professor, Lynchburg College; Dr. Holly Brewer, Colonial History professor, North Carolina State University; Richard Lankford, former State Archivist, North Carolina State Archives; Roberta Brooker, Director, Indiana State Library.  Dr’s. Potter and Brewer made history fun, exciting and revelant. Richard Lankford taught me so many of the practical applications of historic preservation and its context within a state archives. Roberta Brooker for entrusting me with the care and maintenance of the manuscript section of the Indiana State Library and for sharing an interest and passion in Indiana History and especially our collections.

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HISTORY? My grandfather who taught history in public schools around the Washington D.C. area.

MOST INTERESTING BIT OF INDIANAPOLIS HISTORY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED? Richard Gatling first test fired his famous Gatling Gun on the grounds of the statehouse here in Indianapolis.

YOU CAN HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE FROM INDIANAPOLIS PAST? WHO & WHY? Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann re-discovered the ancient city of Troy and spent a year in Indianapolis for an interesting reason. He purposely moved to Indianapolis because at the time it was the easiest place in the country to obtain a divorce. As an individual, he was fluent in 12 languages and a self-made millionaire from several business ventures. He traveled out West during the Gold Rush of 1849 and his firm supplied the Russian Czar with the components to make gunpowder during the Crimean War. He would be an absolutely fascinating individual to talk with.

YOUR CAREER IN AN ALTERNATE LIFE? People are always taking me into their confidence and confessing things to me. I don’t know if it is because I’m empathetic or a good listener, so based on that, I would say, “a priest.”

ANY INTERESTING FAMILY CONNECTIONS TO INDIANAPOLIS PAST? Not so much with Indianapolis, but rather Indiana. Many of my ancestors were French fur-traders and their surnames like Martel, Valle, LaTranche, and Bonet appear in records from the Vincennes area. I haven’t done the research, but I’m sure they were connected in some manner.

FAVORITE VIEW IN THE CITY? James Whitcomb Riley monument, Crown Hill Cemetery.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN INDIANAPOLIS? Palomino, you know a restaurant is great when you remember the experience several days later.


FAVORITE HISTORY RELATED BOOK OR MOVIE? Book: “The Confessions” St. Augustine Movie: Saving Private Ryan


COLLECT ANYTHING? Coins, Hard Rock Pins

FAVORITE QUOTE? Thunder is impressive, but lightning gets the job done…..

IF YOUR LIFE HAD A THEME SONG, IT’D BE? “Southern Cross”, Crosby, Stills, and Nash

3 responses to “Heritage Steward: Mark Vopelak”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    LOVE these biographies of our local and statewide historic preservation heroes and heroines!

  2. mark kreps says:

    Is Mark available to give a talk on a Saturday in INdy about the John Tipton papers?
    Mark Kreps
    Pres- Soc of the War of 1812 in the State of Indiana

  3. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    You would need to asks him, Mark. I recommend you call the State Library archives. He’s usually there and very kind. Bet of luck!

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