The Center for Middletown Studies is working to create a historical record of recent economic changes in "Middletown"—Muncie, Indiana—and their impact on the life of the community. It has undertaken several projects as part of its Documenting Deindustrialization initiative:
The goal of this initiative is to provide the raw materials for researchers seeking to explore the social, cultural, and political effects of deindustrialization on what is already one of the most thoroughly studied communities in the United States. Scholars, journalists, and marketers have been coming to the city since the 1920s, when Robert and Helen Lynd published the trailblazing Middletown: A Study in American Culture (1929).
The work of the Lynds and their successors provides a baseline from which to compare the social and cultural patterns of a community hard hit by the economic changes of the past four decades. In 1972, Muncie had more than 17,000 people employed in heavy manufacturing—21% of its population. By the end of that century, only 5,000 people were engaged in industrial work and they constituted just 7% of the city's population, and those figures have continued to decline in the early 21st century.
The Lynds examined the impact of industrialization on the community's social and cultural life. The center seeks to assist scholars attempting to do the same for deindustrialization.
For surveys of local social, cultural, and civic trends during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, see the Middletown Area Studies. Archival collections documenting labor and business experiences can be found in the Middletown Studies Collection and Digital Archives.