Them bones, them bones …

Written by Elizabeth M. Scott, Natural History and Archaeology Preparator at the Indiana State Museum

Professionals such as archaeologists often encounter bones during excavations. But how do they know what animals they belong to? One way to find out is to use a reference source called a comparative bone collection.

This kind of collection contains numerous skeleton specimens that identify the range of animals present within a particular ecological or geographical area. It may focus on current or ancient animal populations. Multiple specimens of each animal are contained in the collection to represent the diversity within each species, such as the differences between males and females and old and young. The collection also identifies additional evidence such as normal and abnormal growth and development, disease, injury, change over time and modification, for example by people, animals, or the environment. The identification of unknown bones can be assisted by comparing them to known specimens in a comparative bone collection.

Among its many collections, the Indiana State Museum has a large collection of teeth, bones and skeletons representing both modern and ancient animals from Indiana’s natural history. So how are animal skeletons prepared for the museum’s collection? Processing depends on the type of material, its condition, and its intended use. It can be a very smelly and dirty job. Case in point … let me introduce you to “Ford,” the newest member of the comparative bone collection.

Bison carcass in field prior to recovery.

At Wolf Park in Battleground, Indiana, an old bull of the bison herd known as “Ford” died. He was brought to the museum as a half mummified half rotting carcass that had been preyed on by scavengers. Over the course of several months the specimen was processed by various methods including: the separation of parts and the removal of flesh with various tools, the cleaning of bones by bugs outside, the cooking of the bones to cause further flesh and connective tissue failure and to force grease, fat, and blood out of the bones, the bathing of the bones in several baths of enzyme and degreasing detergents, the drying of the bones, and finally the staining of the bone to enhance surface feature characteristics.

Fully processed bison skeleton in biological position.

Ford now has a second life as an excellent scientific reference specimen: a complete large and older adult male bison skeleton containing evidence of previous injury with healing, pathology and potential predation marks.

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Canal Boat Season Opens!

Take yourself back to a time when pleasures were simple … just step aboard a canal boat and take a trip back to the 19th century! On May 1, the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site will once again offer canal boat tours on the Ben Franklin III, through later this fall. 

This is the 20th year of canal boat rides on the Whitewater Canal aboard the Ben Franklin III. The Whitewater Canal originally began in Lawrenceburg and terminated in Cambridge City, on the Old National Road (U.S. 40). When the era of canal transportation ended due to the railroads, the Whitewater Canal became a source of water power for many mills.

 Today, the Whitewater Canal staff operates a horse-drawn canal boat, the Ben Franklin III, and the Metamora Mill. Visitors can travel a 25-minute cruise aboard the Ben Franklin III through the Duck Creek Aqueduct, the only covered bridge aqueduct in the nation!

Simple pleasures from a simpler time … don’t you sometimes wish our lives were this uncomplicated?

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Bringing an ocean beauty to life … one stitch at a time

Carol Frohlich is a member of the Crochet Guild of Indianapolis and is coordinating the volunteer effort behind the creation of The Indiana Reef, a representation of ocean coral created through crochet, which will be exhibited at the Indiana State Museum from Sept. 1 – Oct. 31.  Recently, she and other volunteers came together for a work session to determine a plan on how many pieces of crocheted coral will be mounted for display. Currently, the group is experimenting with sewing the coral to upturned baskets.

Indianapolis Crochet Guild members and friends gathered together to make a coral reef. Since this was our first meeting, it was a time of trial and error, cheese, fruit and Mexican dip. We quickly learned to streamline our batting/backing process, making an outline of the basket first and then cutting and sewing these materials to the basket. Using strong thread and sharp needles, we found this to be very labor intensive. I think next time we’ll use hot glue for the attachments. The coral pieces still need to be sewn, no glue for the Stars!

What a pleasurable time we had! Each covered basket had several corals sewn on, and the results were stunning. The big corals were the “Stars” and were surrounded by smaller pieces. It took a lot of work to cover these baskets, and we soon realized that we need to ask for lots of small corals. An occasional fish, too! What began as a two-hour expectation ended four hours later. Thanks to this dedicated group, we now have an idea of how beautiful the coral reefs are and how much we need to protect them.

Interested in getting involved? Everyone is welcome to join in the effort to help make this exhibit a reality. We can’t do it without you! Whether you are an avid crocheter, or just a beginner, you can create a piece of beautiful coral that can be used in The Indiana Reef. For more information, or if you have questions, please contact Carol Frohlich of the Crochet Guild of Indianapolis at And to learn more about programming and other activities related to The Indiana Reef check out the museum’s website.

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Those were the days!

Written by Jourdan Struck, sales associate with the Indiana Store

Digging deep to find the treasures in the archives!

The L.S. Ayres Tea Room Cookbook project was mentioned to me the day I was hired. I tend to volunteer for things fairly readily, so I am not surprised that the words “I can do that” came tumbling out of my mouth. What did surprise me was the response from my boss, “Well, ok! Great!” I was a little startled that my boss would let the “new girl” tackle such an auspicious project, but I am excited to tackle it.

In the past month, as I have contemplated and discussed with others ideas for where this cookbook will go, I have become very excited about all the possibilities. I have begun to do research on the L.S. Ayres Department Store along with the L.S. Ayres Tea Room. I have asked my grandparents, parents and friends to tell me what they remember about their own journeys to The L.S. Ayres Tea Room and the Department Store. With the help of Katherine Gould, assistant curator of cultural history for the Indiana State Museum, I have begun looking through the museum archives at old Ayrogram Magazines and Ayrespeople (monthly store publications) that date back to 1944,  in search of recipes and the occasional blurb about The L.S. Ayres Tea Room.

Luncheon fare from the tea room during the 1950s.

I was expecting to find those things and I have, but what I wasn’t expecting was to be completely amazed at how different society was in the heyday of the L.S. Ayres Department Store and The L.S. Ayres Tea Room. I am 26. I have no clue what it was like to be alive in the post WWII era or in the 1960s, but this project is forcing me to think about what it would have been like to be a little girl, all dressed up in my Sunday best, to go shopping and eat lunch at L.S. Ayres. Gone are the days of dressing up to go shopping and gone are the days of shopping being a special thing. Gone are the days of going to a special restaurant to practice manners and eating with your elbows off the table. As I think about this different time period, I can’t help but compare it to now. It seems to me that there was an innocence and youthful hopefulness that I think we have lost. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that we have today that I would miss if I was somehow transported back to the 1950s, but just think what our society would be like without so much T.V., a few more manners and a little less cynicism.

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Looking for memories of the L.S. Ayres Tea Room

Written by Susan Johnson, Retail Operations Manager at the Indiana State Museum

One of the most interesting parts of my job handling retail operations for the museum is the opportunity to work with our curators and staff to develop new things to sell in the museum store. Along that line, I realized when I took over this position a few months back, that our ever popular L.S. Ayres Tea Room Cookbook is now 12 years old. Seems to me like this is a good time to put together a second edition. L.S. Ayres published hundreds of recipes in the old employee publications and newspapers through the years and I’ve had so many people ask me why certain recipes were left out of the cookbook. Cuts had to be made somewhere, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to locate more of those old recipes to share.

This will not be a small project and it’s going to take a little time. Right now I’m shooting to have this second edition published for Mother’s Day of 2011. We’ll see if we can make that self-imposed deadline. I’ve asked a small group of people to help me out with this project so I can ensure that we move forward. Jourdan Struck, one of our new staff members with the museum store, will be helping me research and test recipes. I’ve also asked her to write about her journey for our museum blog. Jourdan is enthusiastic, loves to cook and has a journalism degree from Ball State so I’m excited to have her on board. Katherine Gould, the Assistant Curator of Cultural History for the Indiana State Museum, is helping us wade through several boxes of old Ayres documents and photographs from the archives to help us in our search for unpublished recipes. Along the way she will be scanning recipes and old menus for our digital archives. I’m also happy to say that Head Chef Jon Michael Gioe, with the L.S. Ayres Tea Room at the museum, has volunteered to help us out along the way with testing and interpreting the recipes we find. He’ll give this second edition some cooking credibility.

Along with collecting recipes and articles about the Tea Room for our second edition, we’re also going to take this opportunity to collect some Tea Room memories from our visitors that we might add to the book. So please, if you have any old recipes from the Tea Room or a memory you’d like to share, please let us know. I’m sure we can use all the help we can get.

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Women Who Fly

I was most honored to meet a true Hoosier legend today. Mary Anna Martin Wyall — or “Marty”— is one of just 1,074 women who flew military aircraft during WWII and is the lone Hoosier survivor. These courageous women were Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP. 

In 1944, Marty Wyall was a scientist for Eli Lilly here in Indianapolis when she began flying lessons. After being accepted as a WASP, she headed for training at Avenger Field, Texas, and earned her wings in December of that year.

Their modern story starts in 1977, when the Federal Government officially granted these women veteran status. Yet still, the history of the WASP is not included in most textbooks and is virtually unknown to many Americans … until this year. In March, the women were finally recognized for their heroic efforts and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Sadly, for many WASP and their families, it was a posthumous honor.

 The Indiana State Museum, along with Puddlejump Pictures and Texas Woman’s University, have produced the In Her Honor exhibition to celebrate these amazing women and educate generations on their accomplishments and the unique role they played in WWII. The WASP flew non-combat missions in the United State to free up male pilots to serve combat duty overseas. Throughout the war, these courageous women logged more than 60 million miles in every type of aircraft and on every type of mission, including ferrying, target towing and as test pilots. And 38 of them made the ultimate sacrifice.

In Her Honor now includes Marty’s Congressional Gold Medal, as well as other personal objects and photographs. It will be on display through the summer at the Indiana State Museum. For more information on WASP, go here and here.

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Hats off to hats!

Written by Kisha Tandy, Assistant Curator for Cultural History

This peach basket hat (c.1960–1970) is made of percale roses and leaves. The outer petals are velvet.

“Look at the lady in the pretty hat. Oh, she looks so cute in her hat and dress!” Hats tend to grab our attention. Outside of their utilitarian uses, such as protection and warmth, hats can express the wearer’s personality. Whether you are happy, sad or making a statement in your Sunday best, there is a hat for every mood.

Hats collectors often have stories that go with each hat. In September 2008, I presented a selection of the museum’s hats to a doll club. The ladies shared their hat collections, the stories behind them and how they wore them. What a great way to spend a late morning!

My grandmother has two closets in her family room filled with hats and labeled hat boxes. Most hats are matched to a specific outfit, while others work for a variety of occasions. Following each wear, she returns the hat to the correct box (sometimes with a little help). I have learned to appreciate the complexities of my grandmother’s hat collection and marvel at the beauty and detail of her collection.

This pillbox hat (c. 1960–1970) is made of red woven straw. Shirley Boltz of Indianapolis purchased it at L.S. Ayres.

At the Indiana State Museum, our collection represents styles from simple baseball caps to fancy women’s cloches. From the unique peach basket hat or a charming Fedora, headwear that makes a political statement, work helmets, hats made of feathers and children’s caps — the museum collection has a hat for every occasion and mood.

Currently, we have 19 hats on display in the Treasures Case in the Great Hall of the museum. This is a public space which means there is no charge to see them. So what are you waiting for? Come find your style!

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Building bridges, part 2

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

On Tuesday morning, the three 60-foot sections of the new bridge arrived from Wisconsin. Three semis carrying the bridge parts left central Wisconsin Monday morning from the fabricator. When they arrived at the site, they had to negotiate the front gates of and then back down to the edge of the slough where a crane lifted the bridge off the trailers. Within two hours they were set in place awaiting the final attachment to the bridge piers.

Next step is building the landscape up to meet the height of the new bridge so that a walk can be poured from the building and across the bridge to the village site. We expect to have the bridge project completed by the end of the month.

Read part 1 of “Building Bridges.”


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Spring has sprung at the Lanier Mansion

Written by Anne Fairchild, State Historic Sites Eastern Region School Programs Manager

Top 10 Ways to Know Spring has come to the Lanier Mansion
1.  Gardening buffs attended our “Garden Affair” luncheon and discovered new ways to make their gardens more beautiful and fun!

2.  Even with cutbacks, some schools are still planning their annual spring field trips 

3.  Robins are fighting to see who gets the primo nesting spots

4.  We already mowed the lawn last week

5.  Dog walkers, cyclists and runners are out and about

6.  The Easter Bunny and Mother Goose helped us give away a thousand Easter eggs during our “Easter Egg Hunt on the Lawn”

7.  People dug shorts and sandals out of their closets to stroll along the River Walk as temperatures rose into the 80s last week

8.  Spring is in full bloom with flowering forsythia bushes, dogwoods, cherry trees, redbuds, daffodils, tulips, magnolias and more

9.  Our first wedding of the season is next week

10.  The visitors are back and enjoying the sights and sounds of Madison by visiting the Lanier Mansion, watching barges towing cargo up and down the beautiful Ohio River and taking in the fresh spring weather

Spring is an excellent time to visit many of our State Historic Sites. For information, please visit

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