Dialogue Blog: Fun in (and out of) the sun

by Katy Creagh, Arts & Culture Program Developer, and Eric Todd, Gallery Program Manager

Eric: Katy, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing when you were growing up, you were excited for the fun summer offered, but also kind of bummed about school coming to an end.

Katy: Now Eric, just because I enjoy learning doesn’t mean I don’t like to have fun in the summer. I still love to go to the pool or lake, read all day and have barbeques. And, I hate to point this out, but between the two of us, aren’t you the professional student?

Eric: If by “professional” you mean the top in my field, guilty as charged. That’s why I like working at the museum; you can be a professional and a student — I learn something new every day.

Katy: And there does seem to be a lot of things going on at the museum this summer.

Eric: I agree. As you know, I got my start here as a summer camp intern. Camps alone keep the museum pretty busy.

Katy: I know, we are knee deep in camp season. We have three camps down, one in progress, three left to go. My camp, Indiana Artists Camp, was the first one, and I thought it went pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Katy and Eric creating some art!

Eric: I’ll say it for you — the watercolors, birdhouses and pottery I saw from your campers were all really cool — and I was jealous when I saw you guys doing art in nature, it looked like a lot of fun. Frankly, I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen in all the camps this year. 

Katy: I’m glad to hear that, but I noticed you’re not on the camp schedule this year — that’s a first! Care to share what you are doing with all your time?

Eric: Sure. I’m heading up the museum’s new gallery host program. ‘Eric, does that mean you’ll be taking your intoxicating personality out onto the museum floor to share with visitors,’ you ask?

Katy: Okay …

Eric: Actually, it does, Katy. I’m part of a team of Gallery Program Specialists that will be in the museum galleries every day to answer questions, share insights about the objects on display and facilitate some fun activities along the way.

Katy: You know, you aren’t the only one who is busy with activities this summer. I’ve developed some art activities that take place in White River State Park this summer.

Eric: I know, and I’ll be honest, I’m pretty excited. You taught me a lot about art back in February, so I am excited to test my newfound skills and knowledge on these weekends.

Katy: We’ve got different activities planned for each of the Yes Games weekends. This coming Saturday, on June 30, we are using recycled plastic to create a mobile. We’ll be on the front lawn July 21, Aug. 11 and, of course, for the White River Festival on Sept. 1.

Eric: That sounds like a great kick off for the White River Festival that’s taking place the whole month of September. I heard there are going to be activities around all of White River State Park that day.

Katy: Now we’ve been spending most of our time shamelessly plugging our own programs, I feel like there is something else this summer that we are missing.

Eric: Right you are. Summer Sounds is ongoing, and it’s a really fun program. There are two dates left — July 18 and Aug. 15 — with a couple of great acts. It’s really a great way to unwind and enjoy yourself after a day of work.

Katy: I know, I’ve been to one of the concerts and really enjoyed it. Sitting on the canal, enjoying the music and one of the most iconic views of downtown Indianapolis … it’s a nice date night.

Eric: Speaking of ‘dates,’ I’d recommend adding all of the dates we discussed to your calendar — there is a lot of fun … and learning … to be had this summer in and around the museum.

Katy: Okay … that was a bit lame, is that really how you want to finish this?

Not just another Hallmark holiday

by Keesha Dixon, Juneteenth Festival Co-Chair

Juneteenth? What does that mean? Well, you are in luck! This is an actual holiday that doesn’t require gifts, candy or flowers. Whew! On June 19, 1865, the end of the Civil War officially freed all of the country’s slaves. Juneteenth, a combination of the words June and nineteenth, is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.

A bit of background … Though the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves officially on Jan. 1, 1863, It was several years before the news reached slaves in Texas, a Confederate state. But in June of 1865, Texas slaves learned of their new freedom. Officially, Juneteenth is on June 19, but the Indiana State Museum is having its Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Juneteenth Festival will encourage family and friends to celebrate freedom and diversity with arts and crafts, music, storytelling and more. There will be music by Lamar Campbell & Spirit of Praise and Staci McCrackin & Euphony. Storyteller extraordinaire Stevi Butler, spoken word artist Rehema McNeil and visual artist Walter Lobyn Hamilton will discuss and present their work. There will be craft activities, a Community Organization Fair, documentaries and Civil War re-enactors too!

I hope we will see you at the Indiana State Museum on June 23!

Mittens on sea creatures and mastodonts?

by Kate Larson, guest blogger and yarnbomber

17 feet of I-cord!

Happy International Yarn Bomb Day! My friends from SWIFT (Spinners and Weavers of Indiana Fiber and Textiles) and I helped yarnbomb the Indiana State Museum the last weekend of May. We installed temporary projects ranging from colorful knits that encase architectural beams in the museum to striped mittens for a creature from ancient seas. Several of my co-conspirators decided to knit I-cord to wrap around handrails in the Earth Science area of the museum. I-cord is a knitting technique that creates a seamless tube, which in this case, is about an inch in diameter. The goal was to make about eight feet of I-cord, but both knitters got carried away by their needles and the longest piece ended up measuring over 17 feet!

Stylish mittens keep an ancient sea creatures appendages warm.

As I knit my own yarn bomb contribution, I incorporated some handspun yarns from my own flock of Border Leicester sheep. I keep a flock of about 30 of these curly fleeced sheep on my family’s farm in Delaware County. I loved having the opportunity to use a bit of local wool for this exhibit at the Indiana State Museum — knit by a sixth-generation Indiana farmer.

Thank you to the Indiana State Museum for allowing us to yarn bomb the museum and express our creativity through our craft. Thank you to Joanna Hahn and the museum staff for working so hard to bring this project to fruition!

Knee deep in June

by LeAnn Luce, West Region Program and Earned Income Manager

“… Tell you what I like the best —
‘Long about knee-deep in June,
‘Bout the time strawberries melts
on the vine, — some afternoon …”

— James Whitcomb Riley

For many of us at our Indiana State Historic Sites, June brings a much needed reprieve from all of the hustle and bustle of holding site related events and having thousands of school children visit our historic treasures during the months of April and May. A welcome necessity in keeping our Indiana State Historic sites doors operating and open.

For most of our site managers, programmers and other site staff, this is a marathon month or two of activity and affords little time to enjoy their own site’s surroundings and the comings of goings of spring. While the phenomenal events of Mother Nature’s show of emerging flora and fauna are noticed, most staff are simply too busy to reflect upon her daily gifts.

And then it happens … we find ourselves “Knee deep into June” and we notice the special things Mother Nature has been saving for us — a new born baby fawn and her mother, a nest of hungry baby birds, new butterflies enjoying June foliage and a beautiful box of flowers that only just now have reached their prime. We see it and we are thankful for these sites and the wonderfully special places we work. This ain’t no ordinary job!

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Come and visit our Indiana State Historic Sites … I can assure you it has been worth the wait!

Flappers, flyboys, pickles and Abe Lincoln

by Erin Anderson, Gallery & Programming Specialist

When I was about 10 years old I fell in love. Much to my parents’ (mostly Dad’s) relief, I was in love with history and not a boy. I was the only girl in my grade who was fascinated with the people and things that came before me, especially all things Civil War-related. I read history books and obsessed over the movie, Gettysburg. (I almost have it memorized word for word.) But I never really got the chance to experience history hands-on. I was a total history geek … who am I kidding? I still am! I’m excited to announce that those children who are a little interested in history or who are total history geeks like me can spend a week at the Indiana State Museum getting to experience history hands-on at History Alive Camp! Woot!

This year’s camp will have the old favorites, like a visit from Abe Lincoln, going on a museum treasure hunt, making WWII-era refrigerator pickles and hanging out with some Civil War soldiers. Don’t worry; we’re not digging up the dead! They’re re-enactors! There will be some new activities, too.

The Madam Walker Theatre on Indiana Ave.

Flappers, flyboys, jalopies and all that jazz will arrive in style as we learn about the Roaring ‘20s in Indiana! There was a lot going on here in the heartland during the 1920s. For example, did you know that the infamous mobster, Al Capone, was involved in a shoot-out at a speakeasy in McCordsville or that he owned a gun-shaped house in Long Beach, Indiana? Did you know that Indiana Avenue was home to many famous theaters and dance clubs and would become a hub for jazz music and African-American culture? How about Indiana allowing women the right to vote in some elections as early as 1881, 39 years before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1920? There’s much more that happened, but I can’t tell you everything now! I have a deal for you though. If you want to know all this cool stuff and your kiddos are into history, sign them up for History Alive Camp. Then, they can tell you all about it!  This year’s History Alive Camp will be the bee’s knees!

Yarnbomb in is the house!

by Joanna Hahn, Manager of Arts and Culture Programs

Last week, Indiana State Museum staff assisted volunteers from the Crochet Guild of Indianapolis and SWIFT (Spinners and Weavers of Indiana Fibers and Textiles) with the installation of a few new objects to the museum’s core exhibits as part of our Yarnbomb the Indiana State Museum. Yarnbombing allows fiber artists of any skill level to leave a non-permanent creation using public spaces of buildings, sculptures and infrastructure such as telephone poles, parking meters and bike racks. The idea is to help bring warmth, color and personalization to objects that are often ignored or overlooked. We have gone one step further and allowed our core exhibits and the artifacts to be the inspiration for some fun creating.

It has been a lot of work (and some sweating and even a small bit of blood) taking these fun two and three-dimensional creations and placing them throughout the museum. Some are right in your face and not hard to miss, but I will bet there will be a few that will be hard to find. They are so well made that they just blend in with our exhibits and artifacts. So if you are looking for something new to see at the museum, come check out these wonderful and colorful additions to our spaces. And if you really want to have some fun, join us for International Yarnbomb Day on Saturday, June 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We have some lovely rocks in front of the museum that would love to receive some color. Create your own knitted or crocheted squares, rectangles or any shapes. Or, come prepared to create on the spot!

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Let’s go to the movies!

by Katherine Gould, Associate Curator of Cultural History

What is your most memorable movie-going experience? We all have them: the epic love story that made us cry as we gazed up at that big screen; the first special effects experience to blow our minds; or the first make-out session in the back of a darkened theater (confession: Top Gun, 1986, his name was Sean).

For me, it’s not any one particular movie that is most memorable, but rather my overall movie-going experience as a kid. I grew up on Army bases across the county and most would have a single-screen theater that showed second-run films. I remember the seats being filled not only with kids and parents in civilian clothes but also men and women in uniform. Before the start of each movie, the theater would darken and everybody would rise and remove their caps for the national anthem. The screen would be filled with rousing, patriotic images of tanks rolling across rugged terrain, Navy destroyers smashing through the high seas, and fighter planes soaring over the mountains. Even now, quite a few years later, the memory of those experiences is as clear as day.

I queried the staff of the Indiana State Museum to find out about some of their favorite movie-going experiences. Because sometimes the best part of history is not researching important artifacts or examining “old-timey” photographs, but rather simply recalling our own experiences with the past, and what it means to us. That’s what makes history fun. That’s what makes it personal. So, for some of you, your memory of going to a theater to see Top Gun may involve squealing at seeing Tom Cruise playing beach volleyball or gripping your seat while watching the action-packed fighter jet scenes. For me, the memory is something completely different. Continue reading

A passion for wildflowers

by Karen Lowe, Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites member

If you want to indulge your passion for wildflowers and enjoy the sound of a variety of birds, I recommend a visit to the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site at Rome City. Overlooking Sylvan Lake, her Cabin at Wildflower Woods has been accurately maintained to represent the author’s years here. Built with the proceeds from the sales of her many books, the cabin and surrounding land reflect her interest in the preservation of natural habitats for flora and fauna.

Members enjoy thier tour of Gene Stratton-Porter’s Cabin in Rome City. The author is in the yellow jacket.

The site managers gave an impressive tour of the cabin. The beautiful cherry woodwork was fashioned from trees which were on the property. Several examples of Stratton-Porter’s photography are on the walls. Some of the furniture is original, such as a cherry chest, carved by her father, Mark Stratton, and given as a wedding gift. Her piano, which she brought from her Limberlost home in Geneva, is in the library, which also contains her Victrola. The library is lined with built-in shelves filled with the many books that interested her. The cabin has four fireplaces, the most impressive one being in the parlor. This massive fireplace, called the Friendship fireplace, is made from a variety of interesting stones, including the colorful pudding stone, which she liked so much that she also had it surrounding a spring out in the garden. A large picture window, which Ms. Porter called the million dollar window because of the view of the lake, dominates this room. The conservatory has much natural light coming in through the many windows, and is designed to serve as an aviary as well. This is much like her conservatory at the Limberlost which she designed to bring in moths.

The second floor of the cabin has a sleeping porch that looks out on the lake, and can be accessed from Ms. Porter’s bedroom. There is a fireplace and half-bath in her room. The built-in storage units include a huge cedar closet in the hall, used to store blankets and winter clothes.

Equally impressive was the tour of the gardens. There are both wildflower habitat and what she called her “tame garden.” She left extensive information as to how this garden was laid out and planted, and the managers, with the help of master gardeners and other volunteers, have painstakingly worked to recreate these plans. In one of the gardens there are globe thistle, butterfly weed, milkweed and other plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. A garden designed for sun-loving flowers contains black-eyed Susans, cone flowers and ladies’ mantle.  Another area is for Indiana native flowers: wild oats, wood poppy, May apple, bluebells, bloodroot, wild ginger.

There is a fascinating variety of wildflowers throughout the property. In bloom during our visit were large flower trillium, rue anemone, Dutchman’s britches, violets, shooting stars, Jack- in-the-pulpit, nodding trillium. As we strolled through the gardens, we heard many birds, and saw a few, such as a downy woodpecker and a nuthatch snacking on suet cakes. A mute swan was gracefully gliding across the lake, and we heard the call of geese, the twitter of the tufted titmouse, and the louder voice of a pileated woodpecker.

Gene Stratton-Porter died in California in 1924. Her wish was to be buried under her favorite tree here in the Wildflower Woods, which was the chinkapin oak. Many years after her death, her wish was fulfilled and there is a sculpture and lovely headstone for her and her daughter Jeannette off one of the footpaths.

Postscript: As usual, Chrissy Vasquez arranged a great members’ tour to Rome City on April 14, which included a comfortable bus (driver, James), informative literature, snacks and videos pertaining to the subject of the tour. A meal was provided at the site as well and each participant was given a package of wildflower seeds and some postcards which show rooms in the cabin. Consider becoming a member of the Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites!

When creativity meets summer

By Katy Creagh, Art and Culture Program Developer

As an artist, I was always creating something when I was on summer break from elementary school. From trying to make my own pottery using clay in my backyard to making handmade birthday cards for my friends, expressing myself artistically — even if I didn’t realize it at the time — was my favorite summertime activity.

Because my creativity took over my mother’s dining room on more than one occasion, my parents put me in art classes. I LOVED it! I also LOVED arts and crafts time when I attended camp, vacation Bible school and any other summer activity my parents signed me up to attend.  And once I was old enough to sign myself up, I studied art in college and graduate school just so I could continue expressing myself and keep having as much fun as I did in my dining room back home.

If you know a child who enjoys making art and expressing their creativity as much as I did when I was little (and now that I’m all grown-up), make sure to sign them up for Indiana Artists Camp! As director of the camp, I can guarantee that the campers will have a week full of art making, creative experiences and fun activities. Learning about sculpture, making their own pottery and painting en plein air (painting outside) will be among the activities sure to captivate campers all week long. And to add an Indiana twist, we’ll be gaining our inspiration from some of the best Indiana has to offer in the field of visual arts.

Although I’m partial to art, you should know that the Indiana State Museum has six other fun filled Summer Camps as well. From Archaeology to Crime Scene Indiana State Museum, Paleontology I and II to Exploring Nature and History Alive, there is a topic to interest anyone. So, even though I’m busy preparing for Indiana Artists Camp, I am confident painting with a broad brush and promising your child will enjoy their summer if they come spend it with us at the Indiana State Museum.

On Expedition at the Indiana State Museum

By Krystle Buschner, Science & Technology Interpretation Specialist

A new program titled Expedition! is premiering at the Indiana State Museum this Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21.  It is a game similar to Oregon Trail, but slightly different. Expedition teams will be traveling through 19th century Indiana to complete scientific objectives (even “hunt” with rubber band rifles!) or their team will face consequences. 

In anticipation of Expedition!, the education staff decided to go on their own expedition … through the Indiana State Museum:

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During the Expedition! program, leaders will explore a cave and uncover fossils, identify three rocks or minerals, find a new discovery, identify three types of soil found in Indiana, and encounter a Native American tribe. We hope to see all expedition leaders on April 20 and 21!