The History Museum’s collections span from prehistoric times to modern day, telling the rich history of the region and the stories of its inhabitants.
The Permanent Collection consists of over 200,000 artifacts from every walk of life. With a wide focus, the Permanent Collection covers items from prehistoric times, early South Bend history, the industrial age and local businesses, furniture and decorative arts, textiles, military and political memorabilia, and more.
The 300,000+ items in our Archives contain an unparalleled assemblage of public and private records unique to the St. Joseph River Valley. This collection includes photographs of local citizens and businesses, architectural drawings and blueprints, manuscripts, personal papers, ethnic/immigrant papers and documents, business/industrial papers and documents, advertising, locally published newspapers dating back to 1830, scrapbooks, military records, oral histories, and films.
The Oliver Mansion, called Copshaholm by the Oliver family, was donated with all the original furnishings and many of the family’s personal effects. The unique Copshaholm Collection ranges from the 1400s to the mid-1900s, and include decorative arts, architecture, paintings, furniture, textiles, books, an archival collection of Oliver personal and business papers, photographs, clothing, and silver.
South Bend resident Schuyler Colfax, Jr. is undoubtably the most notable political figure in the history of the St. Joseph River Valley. Best known for being Vice President under Grant, Colfax held many important public offices, and was instrumental in several political achievements, such as the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Colfax was widely known in his time, traveling across the country and writing about the American West, and has an interesting family and personal history. The History Museum holds one of the largest collections of Colfax research materials in the United States. Notable items include personal effects, letters, and photographs, political campaign material, and even the chair he used as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played baseball from 1943-1954, and The History Museum is the national repository for the league’s Players Association. Our AAGPBL collection spans all teams and includes photographs, programs, film footage, scrapbooks, uniforms, and playing equipment used by the teams.
Since its founding in 1867, the museum has been given nearly 100,000 pieces of historic clothing, dating from the 17thcentury to the present day, creating one of the largest historic clothing collections in the Midwest. Notable pieces in include ca. 1650 priests’ vestments, Revolutionary War uniform pieces, an 1820s wedding ensemble, a gown worn by Mrs. Ellen Colfax at the inauguration of her husband, Schuyler Colfax, as Vice President under Ulysses S. Grant, a 1920s flapper gown by the famous Parisian designer Madeleine Vionnet, a World War II leather and wool flying suit, Girl and Boy Scout uniforms, and prom gowns from the 1990s.
A WWII-era Standard Diving Dress, including a suit made by Mishawaka’s U.S. Rubber (sometimes called Ball-Band). This acquisition included the boots, helmet, knife, and even a hand-cranked pump to provide air to the diver.
Auditorium seats from Central High School inscribed “Benny + Linda 12/2/1965”. As we later found out, Benny and Linda are still together!
Gift of John Charles Bryant
A collection of thousands of photographs taken by Michael Bennett of Lighthouse Imaging, spanning many decades and subjects, from neighborhoods to portraits to advertisements. We are still sorting through these and look forward to sharing them!
Gift of Lighthouse Imaging, in memory of Michael Bennett