Installing Lincoln

Installing a museum exhibit is pretty easy, right? Just throw the artifacts in some boxes, transport them to their galleries and hang ’em up or set them out in display cases. NOT! Months, sometimes even years, of planning come before installation begins.

We are now down to a few short weeks of installation madness before both Lincoln exhibits, With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition and With Charity for All: The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, open at the Indiana State Museum on Feb. 12. Both exhibits are being installed simultaneously, adding to the growing anxieties and craziness. Work began last week with the museum’s exhibits department painting gallery walls and getting wall graphics installed. The Library of Congress cases and the new With Charity for All exhibit cases were lined up and installed in their appointed places within each gallery earlier this week. The time has arrived to start installing the artifacts.

Installing two separate exhibits at the same time is quite an undertaking, but one Indiana State Museum staff has completed many times prior to the Lincoln exhibits. However, installing two separate shows, one loaned and one created in-house, is a different challenge. And when you consider that many of the items in the exhibits are national treasures … well, let’s just say that stress levels are high.

We began installing artifacts from the Lincoln Financial Foundation collection on Monday. These artifacts are part of the first exhibit created by the Indiana State Museum since the State of Indiana acquired the collection from Lincoln Financial. Staff from the Library of Congress arrive next week to begin installation of the artifacts for With Malice Toward None. All artifacts from the Library of Congress exhibit must be uncrated, unwrapped, condition reported and then installed into the correct exhibit case. It will be a crazy few weeks at the museum for staff involved in the installation, but well worth our efforts once both exhibits open to the public.

  

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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Snow on the mounds

Written by Mike Linderman, Sectional Archaeology Manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site

Mound G covered in a light blanket of snow.

Evansville rarely gets any measurable snowfall, so when we do, we rush to get photos of the mounds being blanketed with the white precipitation. Several week ago we had a little over an inch, and it came down gradually, looking more like a fog on the site than snow.

Stillness falls over the site during a snowfall and you can forget that we are surrounded by a major city. It can give you a glimpse into what life may have been like almost 600 years ago at the time the site was abandoned.

Our wildlife becomes more apparent during times like this. Although we may not see them during the day, we see that they are actively leaving tracks all over the site after we leave at 5 p.m. Conservation Officers have counted a herd of over 80 deer in one evening on the site. Angel Mounds consists of 603 acres, over ½ in woods and therefore a great place to animal watch, especially in the winter. Jim Burton, our Site Naturalist, recently counted over 40 varieties of birds on the site, along with our year round residents the beaver, muskrat, fox and coyote.

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Prozac, anyone?

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

Twenty-seven days, two hours, six minutes ‘til we cut the ribbon and open the Lincoln exhibits to a select group of VIPs. The general public – by the thousands – will begin entering the galleries 16 hours later. I used to think anxiety attacks were invented by narcissistic baby-boomers. Being one myself, I can get away with saying that about my people.

I am not suffering an anxiety attack. I can, however, see a light at the end of the tunnel, and that bright beam focuses one’s attention with a bracing intensity. Let’s say great anticipation rather than high anxiety. That’s much more confident – accurate, too.

We’re in great shape. The Library of Congress portion of the project is in the house. Artifacts like the Bible Abraham Lincoln (and Barack Obama) took their oaths on, and a hand-written copy of Abe’s first inaugural address are acclimating to our environment. We’ll start unpacking crates on Monday.

We’ve signed off on proofs of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection exhibit script, and all the support graphics, and we’re going over final elevations for which artifacts are going in which cases. All the mounts for our artifacts are built, conservation is largely complete, and our new display cases are in staging waiting to be placed in the galleries.

Plans for staff and volunteer training, visitor traffic control and security are in place. Schedules for “Members Only” functions are established. Educational programming and entertainment activities are a go. I’m doing the two to four press opportunities a week – print and electronic media – that I’ll be doing through February, in addition to the customary appearances before service groups and other interested organizations.

Production of a souvenir brochure is in the final stages. Video clips for the Lincoln trivia kiosk have been received from the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, PBS analyst Tavis Smiley and several other Hoosier notables. Indiana’s most infamous cat, Garfield, has cut a clip that we haven’t seen yet. The “Kids Look at Lincoln” video is almost done. It’s great, and not just because my two little clones are the stars of the show. Planning for the ribbon cutting and celebration gala are proceeding full throttle. There’s more, much more!  I’m waaaay past my word limit – again!  Crud!  I understand we already have over 10,000 reserved timed-tickets via our website. Come see us!

Anxiety attack!?! Pish-posh. Piece-O-cake!

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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Looking for a good home: Bobcats, Bear and Deer

Written by Mike Linderman, Sectional Archaeology Manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site

It’s not everyday that someone calls and offers up a collection of bobcats, bear and deer. But Charlotte Skelton did just that when she decided to retire from her taxidermy business. Skelton had been working in her taxidermy shop for nearly 20 years, all starting with a dare from her husband. Years ago he had a goose mounted, and she claimed that she could do better than the shoddy job they received with the bird. That started her career. Skelton came by Angel Mounds State Historic Site one day and spoke with me about whether or not we would want some animal mounts. Thinking she was talking about a couple of ducks and maybe a squirrel, I was amazed to find out she was talking about over 60 mounts, ranging from bobcats to black bears to mountain lions to deer in a full run.

I quickly called Damon Lowe, curator of biology at the Indiana State Museum, and we agreed that this was not a collection to let slip through our fingers. With the help of the New Harmony State Historic Site staff, over 10 loads of animal mounts were delivered to Angel Mounds.

We initially kept them in a secure room out of view of the public, but every time we opened the door, the prying eyes of the visitors caught a glimpse of this great collection and they were wowed. So, with that in mind, we decided to create an exhibit with the mounts for the winter and it has been one of most popular exhibits.

We plan to have the exhibit up for sometime until it gets shipped to the Indiana State Museum for processing. Our goal is to incorporate some of the mounts into a more permanent situation with our Mississippian exhibit at the site, with hopefully a rotating showing of them periodically through the years.

              Animals of North America: The Charlotte Skelton Collection
              Dec. 21, 2009 – Jan. 25, 2010
              Tues. – Sat., 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun., 1 – 5 p.m.
              For one month only, an impressive collection of animal mounts originating from Texas all the way to Alaska is on display. Highlights include deer, black bears, birds, coyotes, pheasants, a badger, a wolverine, rattlesnakes and much more.

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Winter at State Historic Sites

The State Historic Sites take on different looks as the seasons change … T.C. Steele and Gene Stratton-Porter’s Sylvan Lake home shine in spring and summer with magnificent gardens, fall colors make the Muster on the Wabash interesting, and here are some great shots of Limberlost under a blanket of snow. Each of these sites have so much history and beauty, you should consider visiting them more than once a year! They’re all a short car ride from home … a nice day trip or weekend adventure. Be sure to check the website first, as some have winter hours (ex: Limberlost hours are now Tues. – Sat. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.;  closed Sun. and Mon. until April 1.)

If you have pictures to share of your travels to any of the State Historic Sites or the Indiana State Museum, please load them to our Flickr page here.

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