Lincoln in the House

Museum curators have been incredibly busy lately, now that Lincoln is “in the house.” Hundreds of artifacts that make up “our” portion of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection* are being unpacked, cataloged, inspected, researched and generally readied for exhibition. The excitement is building, as media are becoming aware of the collection’s treasures.

Here’s one piece that I was able to see; this flag is unique for a couple of reasons. It was at Ford’s Theatre the night of Lincoln’s assassination, for one. It is also unique in that it has just 13 stars, most likely representing the original 13 states.

Dale Ogden, Indiana State Museum Chief Curator, with Ford's Theatre flag

Dale Ogden, Indiana State Museum Chief Curator, with Ford's Theatre flag

*(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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Curators in Stitches

Two Indiana State Museum staffers spent the day at the Indiana State Fair judging in the Antique Quilts and Coverlets Division. Pictured is a great example of a blue and white quilt from 1915, signed and dated on the back.

How are quilts judged? Kathleen McLary, Indiana State Museum Exec. VP for Historic Sites (and quilt expert and author) noted that this particular Double Irish Chain-patterned quilt is in good, clean condition,  lies flat, is pieced well and shows little aging or yellowing. Mary Jane Teeters-Eichacker, Curator of Social History at the museum and textile expert, also commented that the quilt is just a great example of a 2-color quilt of that time.

But will it win a coveted Indiana State Fair ribbon? You’ll have to visit the Home and Family Arts Building at the Indiana State Fair, Aug. 7 through 23 to find out! You’ll be able to view hundreds and hundreds of handmade objects, in addition to this one quilt.

It is also worth noting that the Indiana State Museum houses the largest and best documented collection of Indiana Amish quilts in the world, The Pottinger Collection. It includes 443 quilts and hundreds of blocks, patterns, and associated Amish toys, dolls, clothing and household furnishings. There are hundreds of additional quilts in the Indiana State Museum collection, as well. You should come see them!

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Call me Plume Poppy

My name is Macleaya cordata, Bocconia cordata, or Bocconia japonica
but you can call me Plume Poppy.

Plume poppiesThe most-asked garden question recently has been, “What’s that tall plant over there?” Usually when visitors ask for flower identification,  I need to look at the plant to be certain, since descriptions can be vague or ambiguous. Not so with the Plume Poppy. When there’s a 10-foot tall flower in bloom nearby, I can be pretty sure that’s the one they’re talking about.

I did some quick research to satisfy my own curiosity, and to be able to answer the inevitable questions that this unusual plant was sure to elicit. It is a member of the poppy family. I wasn’t sure, since common names aren’t always reliable as far as identification goes. But neither are scientific names. Sometimes new information brings about changes in genus or species and it’s hard to keep up with what’s currently correct.

plume poppy leafThis perennial is from China, and can withstand -40 temps. Its pale gray-green foliage is shaped somewhat like that of other poppies. The leaves look like paper cutouts — thin and flat and often over 15 inches wide. That explains the poppy half of the common name, and the plume-like blossoms account for the rest.

Upon approaching for a up-close look, a constant humming noise can be heard (click on the link to view the video on Facebook). The  cream colored blooms are swarming with small bumblebees and other insects. The sound is really noticeable because the Plume Poppies cover a large area — several of my sources noted its invasive qualities. So if you plant it, just be aware of this, and be prepared to  be asked, “What’s that tall flower all over there?”

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

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Celebrate Abe Camp Diary

Celebrate Abe Summer Camp took place at the Vincennes State Historic Site July 13 through 17.

Making butter.

Making butter.

Day One: The first day of camp is always an exciting day. The campers arrive full of wonder and, of course, energy. We have planned the week’s activities and they are anticipating them. Some of the campers know each other, some do not. This year we have two campers who are staying with grandparents in order to attend our camp. We are proud to see that a new generation is engaged in the quest for knowledge of our nation’s history. It is easy to pick out who will be the future historians, archaeologists, preservers of our story. It is also fun to watch as they gain a real understanding of what our forefathers endured and overcame. Today, the campers learned how to start a fire, grind corn and make cornbread. They also made butter. One of the campers commented that they would have starved if they had to go through all of this to get supper. I can’t wait to see what tommorrow brings! Continue reading

Week’s Wash

So far this year, Brown County, Indiana , has been more like Oregon weather-wise — or so I imagine, as I’ve never been there. It has been wet, many days in a row, and I sympathize with farmers and gardeners (I still don’t have all my seeds planted). My immediate meteorological concern though has to do with laundry.

I’ve never owned a clothes dryer, and while I cherish  my washer, I don’t feel deprived without a dryer —except when it rains for days on end. As it has. So lately I’ve been wondering about Selma Steele’s solution to the precipitation problem. Obviously, Selma lived before the days of fabric softener and dryer sheets.

weeks_washAs shown in her husband’s painting, Week’s Wash, Selma used a clothesline to dry their laundry. The best day to wash clothes however, isn’t always the best day to dry them. Without the Weather Channel, how did Selma know if her laundry would dry or not?

I’m fortunate to have a porch and two wooden drying racks. Even if it rains after I hang out my laundry, I don’t have to rush out and grab my clothes off the line if it starts to sprinkle. My clothesline is under the porch roof and my clothes racks can easily be taken indoors.

Selma Steele always had porches, and I’d bet she made use of them when laundry day was also a rainy day. But clothes hanging on an outside line make for a better painting — as you can see from this picture. Or stop by and see the real thing (the painting not the laundry) at T.C. Steele State Historic Site.

Week’s Wash can be purchased as a giclée print from the Friends of T.C. Steele gift shop, or online at www.tcsteele.org.

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

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Indiana Square Dancers Share Marriage Secret

square_dancing_01Twirling skirts and flying crinoline filled the O’Bannon Great Hall on Saturday as the Indiana Dancer’s Association held their annual dance. As always, these events make working weekends a lot of fun. And it got even better when a bride who was getting photos and making her wedding video decided to be part of the fun. Graciously obliging the request, the square dancers formed a circle around the bride and groom and waltzed as the couple shared their own dance. At the end of the song, the dancers offered the new bride and her groom some advice on marriage. They noted that many of the couples present had been married 50+ years and the secret to their success was dancing together. It looks like the young couple is off to a good start – I wonder how long it will be before the bride trades in her wedding dress for poofier and more practical square dancing dress?

square_dancing_02

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A Blinking Black-eyed Susan

I’m a big sports fan, but only in the biological sense. In biology, a ‘sport’ is a mutation. Red Delicious apples may be the most famous sport — they all originated from one tree with a tasty (and profitable) mutation.

black-eyed_susansA lone Black-eyed Susan planted itself amidst a row of Peonies at T.C. Steele State Historic Site. Now that the Peony blooms have faded, the Black-eyed Susan’s yellow-orange blossoms really stand out. As I went to take a closer look I got a surprise. Two of the flowers were definitely different. Both were ‘wide-eyed’ and one had a wide, flattened stem as well.

If only I were a plant propagator, and could turn this weird wildflower into the next  All-America Selections® winner. Our financial worries would be over — assuming that gardeners would want to grow Blinking Black-eyed Susans. I’ve seen stranger looking plants in the seed catalogs each year though, so there might be a market for them.

This native wildflower is a biennial, so guess I’ll have to wait two years to see if the mutation carries over to the next generation. I don’t know much about how mutations work — perhaps a knowledgeable plant biologist could spare me the suspense of waiting to find out.

More likely, in two years time some other natural wonder will have caught my interest and I’ll have forgotten all about that wide-eyed Black-eyed Susan. Watching wildlife is a sport I’ll likely never tire of, and it doesn’t really take extreme examples to make nature interesting. Just a plain old (and pretty) Black-eyed Susan will do.

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

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TV Coverage at Indiana State Museum

We love it when the press comes to call, and especially when the rain stays away on those days!  The annual Canal Family Fest on July 4th got fairly waterlogged and was forced inside, but the press was generous in their advance coverage of the event.  Julie Patterson of WISH-TV8 highlighted the event in her “Hot Pick of the Week” and WTHR’s Tim “Tree Boy” Bush did his Friday morning live-shots from the Museum canal (see them here).   Our friends with Indy Admirals were part of both shoots, with handmade radio-controlled boats, which were then available for viewing and motoring on Saturday at the museum. 

There was a little chigger …

There was a little chigger, that wasn’t any bigger…*

So begins this summertime song, sung by children scratching along in time to the melody. Sad to say, chigger season has returned — and the timing wasn’t so great for our first Sunday afternoon ‘Get-together in Selma’s Garden.’

Our new series of garden programs is a thinly-disguised attempt to recruit volunteers to help in maintaining the gardens at T.C. Steele State Historic Site. Eight brave souls showed up, hoping to learn about Selma Steele’s garden techniques and weed identification, but after doing some hands-on (and in) weed I.D. in the garden, I’m afraid they took home more than just information. Continue reading

When is a dollar not a dollar?

When the year is 1838 and anyone can open a bank and issue their own currency!

Students from the South Knox summer program M2+ visited the Old State Bank at Vincennes State Historic Sites and learned the complications and pitfalls of Indiana’s early banking system. Students discovered the value of a national currency we can all count on!

Earlier this year, we had 8th grade students from Clark Middle School participate in a similar program. Students learned how our economic system progressed from the Barter and Trade system to the fur trade, where the settlers traded specific items with the Indians. Then Indiana began to use coin money, gold and silver. It was interesting to see their reactions as they saw the Pieces of 8 and thought about what it would be like to carry around all the coins and break them into pieces to pay for goods and services. The future entrepreneurs and investors then took part in an activity in which they were given paper money similar to the currency that was printed by the numerous individual banks of the early 1800s. They were told to go trade the bills with others.

Some students were given “inside” trader tips that certain bank notes would fail and others would increase their value. It was fun to see how the students caught on to the game and who the future “millionaires” might be.

vincennes_economic_02

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

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