Researching & Writing Lincoln

Written by Dale Ogden, chief curator of cultural history at the Indiana State Museum

With the portion of the spectacular Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection that is to be housed at Indiana State Museum (finally) home, we’ve dramatically shifted gears. After being consumed by the effort to acquire the collection for 16 months, we can now dive into the artifacts and get our hands dirty … metaphorically, of course. Yes Jane/Cindy, I wear my white gloves, religiously. I am not a Philistine.

Thousands of prints, engravings, framed artworks, sheet music, sculpture and 3-D artifacts have been unpacked and temporarily re-stored. Jeana, Meredith and others in Collections Management have been cataloging items for the February exhibition and Conservation has been looking for condition issues. I am, however, the one who gets to have all the fun.

We have about half the time I’d like to have to put the exhibit together, so I’m writing furiously. I enjoy writing, so it’s not a chore, but exhibit labels have their own challenges. Unlike a book, or even an article, you don’t have the luxury of wandering. Limited to 25 to 200 word snippets, you’re pretty much restricted to “Just The Facts, Ma’am.” It’s still fun, though. So far, I’m up to about 6,500 words worth of snippets.

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Indiana State Museum wants to Honor Your Hoosier Hero

Warren Bandy; July 1942 - January 1946; U.S. Navy; Terre Haute, Ind.; submitted by Ken Bandy

Warren Bandy; July 1942 - January 1946; U.S. Navy; Terre Haute, Ind.; submitted by Ken Bandy.

We’re working on a Veterans Day project and we need your contribution. Last year, we introduced a new component to our Veterans Day celebration that consisted of a community photo mural. We sent a call out for photos of Hoosier veterans and active military personnel and then turned those photos into magnets that were displayed on a giant Heroes from the Heartland display board. Visitors to the Museum could turn the photo over to find out about the person featured. We received photos from across the state and as far away as Afghanistan.

This year, the program has been expanded. Instead of four days, the community photo mural will be displayed from Nov. 1 through 11. We have also decided to accept electronic photos this year in lieu of physical copies. Photos will be accepted from today until Sept. 30. Due to limited space, we will only be able to post the first 300 photos received and we are limiting photos to one per person (meaning that you can submit more than one photo, but they have to be of different people).

In addition, from Nov. 1 through 11 the Indiana State Museum is offering FREE ADMISSION to veterans and active military personnel and discounted admission to their families. Closer to November, we will update the blog with more information about music and demonstrations we will offer as part of our Veterans Day celebration.

Heroes from the Heartland

  • Photos accepted electronically until Sept. 30
  • Community photo mural displayed Nov. 1 – 11, 2009.
  • E-mail photos to:

The first 300 photos will be displayed on the community photo mural and on the Indiana State Museum Facebook Fan page and Flickr Heroes from the Heartland Group.

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Processing Lincoln

This ornate, double-sided, folding memorial fan was made for Mary Todd Lincoln in 1865 as a memorial for her husband, Abraham Lincoln.

This ornate, double-sided, folding memorial fan was made for Mary Todd Lincoln in 1865 as a memorial for her husband, Abraham Lincoln.

After all of the artifacts from the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne arrived at the Indiana State Museum at the beginning of June, museum employees began processing the collection. Each artifact in the Lincoln collection must be cataloged following museum standards in the Indiana State Museum database. Digital images are taken of each artifact that are then linked to the museum’s database. The current condition of each artifact is also accessed and any artifacts with urgent issues are immediately addressed. The final step in processing these artifacts before placing them into storage is physically numbering each artifact. Individual artifacts are assigned a unique accession number to track that piece in the database, to assist with the writing of the museum’s professional reports and to facilitate the development of related exhibitions. With several thousand artifacts to catalog, that is a huge project to complete.

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Gazing Globes

Mysterious ‘Sphere of Light’ spotted at T.C. Steele State Historic Site
Scientists declare: “It’s more than just a fad.”

Photo courtesy Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Photo courtesy Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Occasionally, the appropriateness of the gazing globe that graces Selma Steele’s garden falls under question — usually by younger visitors to the site who assume these globes are a new thing. But they weren’t new even in Selma’s day. Like cicadas, they are cyclical, although I suspect the interval between periods of popularity is more than 17 years.

Fifty years ago, I remember being fascinated by them. A garden center near my grandparents home had a large outdoor display of them, and I came to associate gazing balls with grandparents and other things old (and interesting). My plea to possess one fell on deaf ears — then gazing globes fell out of fashion and I forgot about them until the latest resurgence of globe fever.

When they began showing up about 10 years ago, after some shameless hinting I received a beautiful purple glass orb for my birthday. It was a dream realized. But what I didn’t realize (like our young visitors) was that they represent more than a yard decoration.

The first gazing balls made their appearance in 13th century Venice. They were made of hand-blown glass, which limited their size somewhat. Today, there seems to be no limit on size, color, materials or placement. Selma would be envious of the selection — copper, stainless steel, mosaic and ceramic in addition to the traditional glass. Even the glass globes are varied, from mirrored to swirly opalescent.

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The Press has Found Lincoln!

Dale Ogden, Indiana State Museum Chief Curator for Cultural History had a busy day with television reporters yesterday. First, Tim “Tree Boy” Bush of WTHR-Ch.13 spent the morning pretty much in awe of the various Lincoln artifacts. Turns out he is quite a Lincoln-phile and has even questioned his own lineage, as there are “Bush” members in the Lincoln family tree. His story is scheduled to air on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 6:15 and 6:45 a.m. and again during the noon news that day, and he promised to come back to follow the story; truth is, he wants to be as close as possible to those bits of Lincoln lore.

Eric Halvorson of WISH-tv8 was also here and spent the afternoon with Dale, posting this story.

Probably one of the more exciting things about having media here is seeing them express the same excitement that we’ve been feeling these past few months;  the fact that we are housing true national treasures here stirs many emotions in staffers, from a huge sense of responsibility, to passion about our history;  a sense of determination to”get the stories right” and even a humbleness founded in the fact that we were chosen to curate this important collection (along with the Allen County Public Library). We can’t wait to show it off next February!

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