Rocks from the final frontier

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

One of the best parts of my job is meeting people who take their hobbies to the extreme. I might like to look at antique dresses in a book or in a museum, but probably wouldn’t go beyond that. However, there are those special people: collectors of information and objects that are always gathering more in an effort to quench their addiction.

A grouping of Sikhote-Alin meteorites. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Geological Survey.

Meteorites inspire that kind of collecting. Most meteorites are not particularly attractive — at first. They usually come in varying shades of brown. ‘Lumpy’ would be one way of describing a typically-shaped meteorite.

But then you start to think about it more. That hunk of metal didn’t come from the railroad yard — it came from outer space. It could very likely have come from the core of a long-gone planet, the bits of which have been floating around the void for millennia. Probably only recently did it intersect Earth’s orbit closely enough to be pulled in by gravity. And now there it sits.

We’ve got some sitting here on the first floor outside the R.B. Annis Naturalist’s Lab now through the end of July. The meteorites were selected from two local collections to show a range of types. Personally, it was a pleasure putting it together. I really didn’t know very much beyond the meteorite basics when I first came to work here, but the opportunity to talk with enthusiasts has given me a lot more to think about. Enjoy!

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In-Your-Face Tree Fun, Free Trees and Tree Planting Tips for Arbor Day!

Tall or short, full or droopy, fruit-bearing or nutty: Trees, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. And of course, like people, they’re awesome for lots of different reasons.

From climbing trees as a kid, enjoying their shade as a teenager, or eating cherries grown in my own backyard, I’m happy to be a fan and I hope to instill the appreciation of trees in my 2-year-old son, who can’t wait to reach that first low hanging branch and begin his own climbing adventures.

So planning the Arbor Day Celebration for the Indiana State Museum is less like work for me and more like hosting a great big party for all of the trees that have contributed to my memories growing up. From the energetic program Trees, Who Needs ‘Em? to free trees, tree planting advice, tree trivia and wood art – I get to go hog wild with in-your-face tree fun each and every Arbor Day.

In addition to free trees (American plum and gray dogwood this year) and tree planting advice from the Department of Natural Resources, we’ll have a wood turner, live animals, Native American plant use, dulcimer building, tree science, bonsai trees and tons more!

Purdue will be on-hand to talk about tree-destroying insects and a giant Smokey Bear will remind us all that only we can prevent forest fires. Live demonstrations, take home treats, plus the chance to talk to tree experts and artists will round out one very nature-filled day and I hope you get a chance to stop by and enjoy the party.

Come join our Arbor Day party on Friday, April 30! For a full list of this year’s participants, please visit the official Indiana State Museum Arbor Day page.

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Bringing Civil War History to Life in the 21st Century

Spring is slowly budding around the city and basketball fever is in the air. Many who choose to enjoy downtown Indianapolis during this time of year are pleasantly surprised to come upon a program that takes place annually at the Indiana State Museum on the last Saturday in March.

For the fifth year, the museum is hosting the 1st Irish Infantry of the 35th Indiana Volunteers, a local Civil War re-enactors group.  This is always one of my favorite programs to work as visitors to the museum have a chance to interact with re-enactors who portray both soldiers and civilians from the Civil War-era. Inside the museum, visitors learn about all sorts of aspects of daily life for soldiers as well as how Irish immigrants answered the call of duty along with native-born Americans. Ladies walk around the museum in their mid-19th century clothing and discuss how the war affected daily life on the home front. Everyone seems to enjoy the outdoor portion the best as the re-enactors use the museum’s front lawn to demonstrate drills and then allow visitors to participate in a mock skirmish.

Don’t miss this chance to interact with history! The 5th Annual Civil War Spring Drill is Saturday, March 27 from noon to 3:30 p.m. And while you are here, don’t miss a chance to visit the two Abraham Lincoln exhibitions currently showing at the museum.

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Pinewood Derby at the Museum

Spring is in the air in the midwest, and the smell of sawdust and paint … it must be Pinewood Derby time! Yes, once again the engineers at the Indiana State Museum have suspended the world’s fastest track (possibly the highest and longest – you be the judge!) from the Level 2 balcony. 

Scouts from four states converge on the museum this week to prove their little cars the fastest. At stake is a huge two-foot tall trophy, which, to a 10-year-old, is The Bomb!

The museum and track are open to anyone for “fun runs” through Sunday afternoon; official racing is Saturday afternoon, with cars weighed and registered by 1 p.m. There will even be short talks by ISU Motor Sports and Physics professors about “The Science of Speed” to help racers skim that extra .001 second off their times.

http://indianamuseum.org/visit/events/eventview.asp?eventid=211
Pinewood Derby track at the Indiana State Museum

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Building bridges

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

Work began last week at Angel Mounds State Historic Site on the construction of our new visitor access bridge. An enormous crane has been set up on the site to begin driving the bridge supports into the slough waterway behind the building. Each metal support is 35 feet long and will be filled with concrete upon final placement. This is what the new metal and concrete bridge will sit on.

The new bridge will be of steel construction with a concrete walking surface. This replaces the third bridge at this location, which was taken down in 2009 due to severe wood rot.

The new bridge will be 180 feet long crossing the waterway behind the building and allowing public access to the Mississippian village site.

A rendering of the new bridge. The old bridge is featured in the inset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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