Santa is in the House

Santa Claus arrived yesterday via helicopter to the front lawn of the Indiana State Museum, much to the delight of the hundreds of onlookers who braved the cold temperatures.  All went off without a hitch with the DNR pilot landing the ‘copter safely, off-loading Mr. and Mrs. Claus and Raggedy Ann, and sticking around long enough to allow families the opportunity to check the vehicle out before he flew off to other adventures.

From now through Dec. 24 Santa and the Mrs. will be in their cozy house in Celebration Crossing at the museum, where children can visit with him and also ride the Santa Claus Express, see Peewinkle’s Puppets and enjoy the splendor of the season at the museum.  Be sure to come visit and also make reservations for the Family New Year’s Eve celebration, Tea with Mrs. Claus and Holiday Breakfast with Santa.  Call 317.232.1637 for reservations.

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Strange flying objects over Metamora

Written by Joanne Williams, program developer at Whitewater Canal State Historic Site

A UFO was spotted in the Metamora, Indiana, region on Saturday, Nov. 21 around 6:30 p.m. Citizens reported seeing what appeared to be a sleigh pulled by flying deer-like animals. The animal at the front of this unusual vehicle had a red light flashing from its face area. A little later that same evening, the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site had a very special visitor from the far north, Santa Claus!

A crowd of around 300 visitors and area residents enjoyed an evening of music provided by Metamora’s own Catrina and the Baggy Bottom Boys and the Roamin’ Catholic Choir from New Alsace, Indiana. Santa himself led the carol singing. Hot drinks and sweet treats were provided by the Metamora Merchants Association. The evening ended with the lighting of the town Christmas tree located in the Metamora Grist Mill Park and a short fireworks display. This wonderful evening marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Metamora.

Santa appointed Sydney Snedegar, Whitewater Canal Historic Site’s miller, as a special elf. Syd, who has worked in the mill for 13 years, has used her decorating skills to give the Metamora Mill a special holiday look each of these years. Syd plans to retire in August of 2010 so this is the last year we can enjoy her skills in holiday decorating.

To enjoy the decorations at the Metamora Mill and the town of Metamora’s holiday designs, plan to visit during the Annual Metamora Christmas Walk.  The Christmas Walk begins on Friday, Nov. 27.  The Metamora Grist Mill will be open extended hours along with the shops in Metamora.  Every shop will be open and the Christmas spirit will be alive!  Candle lights line the pathways, and lanterns will line parts of the Whitewater Canal.  Strolling carolers and Santa will be there for everyone to enjoy.  Candles will be lit on Fridays and Saturdays. Extended hours for the mill are 12:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on November 27, 28; December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19. Sunday hours on November 29, December 6, 13, and 20 will be 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Good feelings and beautiful sights will continue with the Metamora Christmas Walk that begins on Friday, Nov. 27.  The Metamora Grist Mill will be open extended hours along with the shops in Metamora. Every shop will be open and the Christmas spirit will be alive! Candle lights line the pathways and lanterns will line parts of the Whitewater Canal. Strolling carolers and Santa will be there for everyone to enjoy. Extended hours for the mill are noon to 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 27, 28, Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19. Sunday hours on Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 13 and 20 are noon to 5 p.m.

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The personal Lincoln

Treasures continue to surface as the Indiana State Museum collections management staff processes the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection. One tiny object, a token from President Lincoln to a grieving widow during the height of the Civil War, illustrates the personal side of a president who has become an icon of American history.

This decorative bird picture features a wooden frame with a circular well in the center that is trimmed in copper; a nature motif is crafted within the well. A brown tree with green leaves is hand painted against a white background. Two birds with beaded eyes and painted beaks are constructed from blue, green and red feathers. One bird is perched on a tree branch hovering over a nest, while the other bird forages for food on the ground below the tree. A piece of convex glass covers the motif. A hanging ring is attached to the top. Newspaper backing is found on the reverse, as well as the number 30 carved into one corner.

A postcard dated June 14, 1963, from the donor reads: “Dear Sirs, I just had given to me a small picture, there were two looks hand made of a bird real feathers not in very good condition, but it was given to my friend’s mother by Pres. Lincoln. Her husband’s body was never found and Mr. Pres. entertained my friend and gave her these little gifts as a memo of her visit to him. It’s a shame to throw it away and anyone collecting Lincoln can have it for a collection piece …” [Editor’s note: The spelling and grammar are from the original postcard.]

Wow! It is the little finds like this that help make this collection so special!

The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection was given to the State of Indiana in December 2008 by the Lincoln Financial Foundation. The Indiana State Museum is home to the historic objects and art while most of the books, documents and photographs reside at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne.

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History rewinds to 1811

Written by David Weaver, program developer for Vincennes State Historic Sites

muster_wabash_01On Nov. 7 and 8, Fort Knox II was transported back to 1811. The cannon and muskets are now silent, but to many it was a small look inside the everyday life of the men and women who would play a significant role in history. Fort Knox II was the staging point for then Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison’s army that marched on Prophetstown and fought the Battle of Tippecanoe.

muster_wabash_05For 11 years now, the Vincennes State Historic Sites have hosted a reenactment event to commemorate these men and women. There were plenty of skits and demonstration to suit many interests: Native American culture, a demonstration of 1812 weaponry, including cannons, a first person demonstration of a washerwoman, demonstrations of spinning and weaving, a battle each day, demonstrations of cavalry tactics by the Indiana Mounted Rangers, a gentleman’s duel and a ladies tea. 

For many, the highlight of each day was the patrol with Harrison’s troops, an interactive experience where the public is in the middle of a skirmish between the army and Native Americans. But this year, the icing on the cake was the beautiful weather — 70 degrees in November helped make Muster on the Wabash better than ever.

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Fluffing Christmas Trees!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here at the Indiana State Museum. Did you know we will soon have 41 Christmas trees in the O’Bannon Great Hall and another 30-something in the Celebration Crossing exhibit? 

Imagine yourself the weekend after Thanksgiving, hauling out the box with your artificial tree, matching up the EE limbs or the blue ones, fitting it all together as you fluff out each and every branch (sneezing from the dust!), and then stringing lights (half of which don’t work … drat!), and THEN trying to make sure the tree is vertically straight … and the ornaments are even on both sides, etc. 

Wellllllll … that’s what our army of volunteers does here at the museum! These wonderful people “fluff” each of those 70+ trees, string them with lights and add realistic snow. Then, our own staffers, using the ReachMaster 95 hydraulic lift, take the trees to the very heights of the Great Hall, and place them carefully amongst dangling snowflakes, skiiers, mountains of snow and the like.

And VOILA! It’s holiday time at the museum! Celebration Crossing starts on Nov. 27 with Santa’s arrival by helicopter! That means just 38 more shopping days until Christmas …

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Figures from the past

Written by Michele Greenan, natural history collections manager at the Indiana State Museum

Have you ever wondered how archaeologists come up with ‘educated’ guesses as to how people in the past looked or behaved? For the archaeologist, art can sometimes be the vehicle that delivers that element of humanity. A few weeks ago, archaeologists at the Indiana State Museum began the long, arduous process of cataloging some of the beautiful artwork created by the people of Southern Indiana some 1,700 years ago.

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Figure 1: Figurine Faces

There are many occasions during the day when non-archaeology staff comes traipsing through the lab spaces. Archaeologists are always cataloging something in the labs, so there is a continual flow of things to look at. When these figurines were laid out, the reaction was one of sheer amazement. People would start to walk by then catch a glimpse out of the corner of their eye and stop dead in their tracks. In a low voice, you’d hear something like “…Oh my God!”

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Figurine 2: Figurine Bodies

As we pick each figurine up and get a good look at it, we can’t help but think – just for a second – that we are somehow looking into the faces of the people who made these figurines 1,700 years ago. As we catalog these beautifully crafted objects (there are over 400 in the collection), we can see evidence of how they wore jewelry and what their hair and clothing styles were like. Other figurines may indicate religious practice or perhaps social standing. We may never know the intended meanings of these figurines, but they certainly provide a unique glimpse into their culture.

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Figure 3: Figurine Fragments

Nowadays, our lab looks a bit more like a CSI episode. We have over a hundred fragments of figurines left to catalog, most of which are parts of feet, torsos or limbs. The amount of information we can obtain from these fragments (we will try and fit them together) as well as the faces and bodies are immeasurable. Staff from the Indiana State Museum discovers something new about them almost every day.

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Witches, fairies, ninjas, oh my!

Written by Joanne Williams, program developer at Whitewater Canal State Historic Site

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Two "pumpkins" at Whitewater Canal State Historic Site

The Whitewater Canal State Historic Site was magically transformed on Oct. 17 and 24! The Ben Franklin III became a haunted pirate ship and our horses, Mike and Jerry, turned into Jack-O-Lanterns and walking skeletons. We were visited by witches, fairies, ninjas, clowns, princesses and scary monsters! The only way to rid ourselves of these frightening beings was to give them lots of sweet treats.

The Ben Franklin III “pirate ship” also made special evening cruises where the ghoul and goblin passengers were treated to some Halloween tales told by storytellers Jeff Kuehl, also known as ‘Mory Tician,” on Oct. 17 and by Celestine Bloomfield on Oct. 24. The little witches and warlocks loved the stories and also received a sweet treat for their Halloween bags and buckets.

Local business sponsors for this event were the Amalgamated Transit Union Workers, Local 1471, Main Source Bank-Brookville Branch, and the Brookville IGA Store.

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