A Striking Contrast

Elderberry blossoms at TC Steele State Historic Site

Elderberry blossoms at TC Steele State Historic Site

It’s hard to imagine a contrast that’s not striking. In fact, one definition of contrast  is, “One thing that is strikingly different from another.” I’ve been enjoying an example of this right in my backyard.

The elderberry bushes at the edge of the yard, although beautiful on their own, are enhanced by the dark backdrop of the forest edge. And though I’m content just to sit and enjoy the view from the porch, those dark shadows beneath the shrubs make the forest mysteriously inviting. Continue reading

Preparations for Celebrate Abe

vincennes_log_cabinGearing up for summer camp is always an exciting time for me. We “test” all of the activities and crafts we have planned to see how difficult they are and how much time it really takes to complete crafts. Last week, we made a log cabin using pretzels and icing. It was a fun and tasty day. Richard’s log cabin included waffle pretzel windows!

We have a lot of activities planned and there really will be something interesting and fun for all the campers! Just like the kids, each of us has a different day we look forward to.  I am really looking forward to taking the kids’ pictures in Civil War era clothing, and I was happy to see how well the daguerreotype case they will make turned out. I think it will be a great keepsake for them or — let’s face it — for their proud parents to have a memento of their child’s adventures!

Next week … we are practicing candle making! I can’t wait!

Celebrate Abe Summer Camp starts July 13. Space is still available, so sign up now!

Angela Lucas is the program developer at Vincennes State Historic Sites.

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Jackson 5 at the Indiana State Museum

Michael Jackson is, without a doubt, the most internationally famous person ever to come out of the Hoosier state. We are saddened by the loss of this incredible talent. I took a walk down to the “famous Hoosiers” portion of our gallery to see some Jackson 5 artifacts. Turns out we have costumes worn during a Sonny & Cher show in the 1970s, as well as some other interesting things, with another costume about to rotate in (museums rotate things in and out, to protect the artifacts from exposure to light, etc.).

I also spoke with our Chief Curator of Cultural History about the collection and how a museum goes about acquiring say, Michael Jackson’s glove. Shouldn’t the State Museum in his home state have more of such fabulous items from his life, to share with other Hoosiers?  I guess its a lot more complicated than that…

 That leaves donors; which wealthy Hoosier will step up and donate items to the state collection? Who would enjoy going to auction…. then generously share their finds with the public?

Sarah from Carmel enjoys a Jackson 5 costume worn in a 1970's Sonny & Cher Show performance

Sarah from Carmel enjoys a Jackson 5 costume worn in a 1970's Sonny & Cher Show performance

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Inventorying the Loblolly Marsh

Loblolly Marsh Bioblitz '09

Loblolly Marsh Bioblitz '09

How do you take an inventory of a swamp? Well, it involves a lot of nets. And bug spray. Oh, and sunscreen.

On Friday, I took a road trip to the Limberlost State Historic Site in Geneva, Indiana (Adams County). My mission? To “assist” 24 scientists in taking an inventory of the flora and fauna of the Loblolly Marsh.

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Indiana Quilts of Valor

50 Quilts of Valor at ISM

50 Quilts of Valor at ISM

Over 1000 people participated in wrapping American veterans in warmth as 50 handmade quilts were presented today at the Roudebush VA Medical Center.  A partnership between the Indiana State Museum and the Quilter’s Guild of Indianapolis  resulted in the quilts, which were presented to soldiers wounded while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.    Continue reading

Lincoln on the Move

lincoln_acpl_moveOn May 19, Allen County Public Library employees arrived at the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, armed with 63 book carts and hundreds of empty boxes, signifying the transfer of a portion of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection (LFFC) to its new repository. I stayed in Ft. Wayne for four days to assist with the move. It was a very daunting task that I thought could never possibly get done in just a few days!

However, within those four days, the Library staff loaded their carts with thousands of books; hundreds of personal photographs from the Lincoln family album; documents related to and signed by Lincoln; and thousands more archival artifacts and transported them four blocks to their new home. It was a lot of packing and then unpacking the same artifacts and materials from the Lincoln Museum to ACPL. By the end of each day, we were all tired and ready for some rest.

The library employees never slowed down and completed the move in the four days. Over the next six months, library employees will continue to unpack and organize the collection into their climate controlled storage areas. I will continue to blog about the entire process that leads up to the opening of the Lincoln exhibits here at the Indiana State Museum in February 2010.

The LFFC was donated to the State of Indiana in partnership with the ACPL by Lincoln Financial Foundation in December of 2008. The Indiana State Museum will be home to all 3-D items while most archival objects will reside at the ACPL.

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The Ever Popular Tulip Poplar

Tulip-poplarI first knew Indiana’s state tree by the name Tulip Poplar. Years later, I learned that it ‘should’ be referred to as the Tulip Tree or Yellow Poplar. All these are just common names for Liriodendron tulipifera, a member of the Magnolia family — and anyway, how can a ‘common’ name be incorrect?

Our state tree could do double duty — its blooms are as spectacular as any state flower I know of. As a state tree it’s pretty popular — Kentucky and Tennessee have chosen it as well. We did in 1923. Continue reading

Giant hanging coccolithophore runs amok in museum!

Written by Peggy Fisherkeller, curator of geology at the Indiana State Museum

Coccolithophores are marine planktonic organisms that secrete calcareous plates, called coccoliths, around a single cell. They are so tiny they are best viewed with a scanning electron microscope (an SEM). That’s one of the reasons that a large red version hanging from the ceiling in the Great Hall of the Indiana State Museum was so amusing to me. Another reason for my amusement? I had a fair amount of certainty the artist didn’t know he was creating a pretty good replica of an obscure micro-organism. But that’s the great thing about art – we interpret different meanings based on our personal experiences.

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What’s one of the best ways to improve your outdoor environment? Plant some shrubs! They provide variety, shape, form and balance—all elements of good landscape design. If you stick to annuals and perennials alone, you’ll be missing out, and so will your garden.

A recommendation I’ve read is to buy one shrub for every five perennials. The gardens at T.C. Steele State Historic Site suggest that Selma Steele followed this formula, then doubled it. Leaving aside identification, just taking an inventory of the number of different shrubs planted here would be quite an undertaking. Any volunteers?

shrub_deutziaIn full flower this week is another shrub that I was unfamiliar with, and I wanted to I.D. it before someone asked me about it. Fortunately my book had a good picture, so now Deutzia and I are on a first name (Genus) basis. We’ll have to get better acquainted before I know its species.

Forsythia, Flowering Quince, Lilac, Wisteria (pruned into a bush form), Mock Orange, Carolina Allspice, and now Deutzia—with Rose of Sharon and Hydrangea yet to follow. I’ve already lost count of all the bushes that have bloomed and it’s not even June. The site lacks only identifying tags to make it a botanical garden.

Why did Selma Steele include so many shrubs in her landscape? Was she inspired by one of the many Purdue publications she ordered to help her plan her gardens? Did her art background and training tell her that a shrub would make a great focal point? Perhaps she wanted to introduce fragrance into her garden. She may have appreciated the combination of native wildflowers and understory shrubs in the nearby woods. Likely all of these reasons played a part.

Shrubs are not for those wanting instant gratification. They are a long term investment, one that grows over time. Selma understood this. Always with an eye to the future, she planned it so that not only the shrubs, but her husband’s paintings, would be around for others to enjoy for many years (64 so far).

Buying a T.C. Steele landscape is out of the question for most of us, but there’s no question that our own landscapes would benefit from adding a few shrubs — it worked for Selma.

Davie Kean is the master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.

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Hot Chicks at the Indiana State Museum

Marcus Harshaw, museum program specialist and Scales & Tails Fest facilitation extraordinaire, provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of event programming.

chicks_hatching_060909_03Every year leading up to our Scales and Tails Festival here at the Indiana State Museum, we are fortunate enough to offer our guests a glimpse of the “miracle of agriculture” as two dozen chickens hatch before their very eyes.

The eggs and incubators come to us from the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Office in Johnson County. The office coordinates the Incubators in the Classroom program. Our incubators are placed in the R.B. Annis Naturalist’s Lab in the museum’s first floor galleries, and become a large attraction for visiting summer camp and other groups. The chickens were even filmed as a part of a story on Scales and Tails Fest with WISH-TV 8’s own Julie Patterson.

chicks_hatching_060909_02Annually, each chicken is named after a member of the program facilitation intermittent staff starting with the longest serving to the newest member. Of course, by time you get over six chickens, it is impossible to tell them apart! We each care for the chickens ensuring proper incubator temperature, humidity and cleanliness.

The chicks definitely have personalities. One chicken was busy facilitating the hatching of the other chickens, and another took many naps on his un-hatched siblings. At times the first incubator will be alive with activity while all 12 chickens in the incubator next door were napping, and then they would switch.

Although I have watched most of these chicks hatch, I still cannot decide which came first; the chicken, or the egg?

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