Things that go bump in the night!

by Mike Linderman, Angel Mounds Site Manager

Last Friday night we hosted our first paranormal investigation of the Angel Mounds State Historic Site Interpretive Center, thanks to the Paranormal Investigators of Henderson Kentucky (PIHK), who led the “hunt.” For years, the staff at Angel Mounds have encountered all sorts of strange things in the building, from knocks on doors, weird human-like sounds from deep within the exhibit space and the occasional shadow that moves, even though the people in the room are not moving.

The investigation started about 11 that night and went on until 4 a.m. the next morning. Tickets were sold so that the general public could experience what goes bump in the night in the building. About two hours into the investigation, the three “hunters” working upstairs came running down with audio evidence of the sound of finger snapping and one of the largest bangs we have ever heard in the building, even though the rest of us in the building did not hear it. We usually chock these sounds up to the building popping and cracking as it cools or heats up through the day. Both of these sounds that night were foreign to the staff. Listen to one of the whines heard in the building — it comes in at about the four-second mark.

In the past, the staff has set up audio and video recording devices in the building and have picked up the sounds of boxes being moved on desks, high pitched whines and the most impressive piece — a video of a shadow passing in front of the camera with enough translucence that you can see the furniture behind the shadow. These all occurred when no one was in the building.

Many people ask us about the village site and whether or not it is haunted. We like to think of the village site and the mounds as a peaceful place, and no one has ever been afraid to be out there, even after dark. Our modern Interpretive Center is another story. Maybe you too can join our ghost hunt next October!

Getting crafty in Corydon

by Laura Van Fossen, Program Developer at Corydon Capitol State Historic Site

In September, 75 lucky women will descend on the historic town of Corydon, Indiana, armed to the teeth with hot glue guns, beads, buttons, glitter and all the unique crafting accessories you can think of. They will be participants of the first annual Hot Glue Gun Girls event, a girlfriend getaway at Corydon Capitol State Historic Site on Sept. 16 and 17.

For these two days, women of all ages will participate in three different crafting workshops, sip cocktails at a Moroccan-themed party, have lunch with keynote speaker Debba Haupert of Girlfriendology.com and enjoy fellowship and shopping. Additionally, the historic Corydon downtown square will be transformed into a vendor fair on Friday and Saturday. Open to the public on Saturday, the fair will showcase the unique creations of vendors from near and far. Vendor applications are still being accepted if you are a purveyor of unique goods or supplies!

Download the registration information, holster up your hot glue gun and gather some of your closest girlfriends (or come prepared to make some new ones!). You won’t want to miss this fun girlfriend getaway and crafting weekend!

Searching for context

by Jeff Tenuth, Science and Technology Collection Manager

[Continued from What is this stuff?]

Digging at New Harmony's Dormitory #2

What do archaeological artifacts tells us? What do they mean? These are the most important questions a museum historian can ask. The reason is because if we don’t relate the past to the present, then our artifacts just amount to a lot of stuff without any real meaning. Without the relationship between the past and the present, then the past exists in isolation, without context and without meaning. In the case of New Harmony’s Dormitory #2, we’ve found thousands of artifacts that reflect the daily lives of people who lived and worked there between 1817 and 1940. This is why these artifacts are so important — because they tell us about people. What we find is that people then were just like people now — they worked, they played and they lived their lives with an eye on a better future for their families.

So who were these people and what were they like? The first settlement at New Harmony was founded in 1814 by George Rapp and his group of Lutheran separatists who had first lived in Harmonie, Pennsylvania, the previous decade. Believing that Jesus Christ would return in their lifetimes, their goal was to live a pure life that would prepare them for the Second Coming. With self-sufficiency necessary to survive in the wilderness, the Rappites bought 7,000 acres of land along the lower Wabash River and set about the task of creating a religious based utopian community. They established orchards, vineyards, farms and began to build the town that still exists today. Within the town they established a sawmill, a brickyard and various shops and businesses to serve the needs of their growing population.

Dormitory #2

One of the buildings the Rappites (or Harmonists, as they are sometimes called) built was a community building called Dormitory #2.  Dormitory #2 is the focus of our decade long archaeological dig. Built between 1817 and 1822, it was framed in heavy wood timbers and then finished out with bricks fired on the property. Dormitory #2 served as a community building for the Harmonists while also sleeping between 40 and 60 people on the first floor. As this was a celibate community, there was little concern with men sleeping in the same building as women. Discouraged with the lack of adequate trade with eastern cities, the Harmonists sold their community to Robert Owen in 1825 and returned to Pennsylvania.

Robert Owen was a Welsh social reformer and an early advocate of socialism and the community movement. His main goal was to continue the development of a utopian community with education as the basis rather than religion. During the next century, the building was used for many purposes. Its first use was as a school and Masonic lodge, both established in 1825. In 1826, the famous “Boatload of Knowledge” arrived and headquartered in the building. Organized by Robert Owen and William Maclure, scientists and educators traveled down the Ohio River to New Harmony in the winter of 1825 with the idea of organizing a utopian socialist community based on an educated population that placed the needs of the community ahead of the needs of the individual. The community failed for a variety of reasons and, in the late 1820s, Robert Owen deeded the entire town to William Maclure.

Maclure continued to use the building as a school but also set up a print shop, one of many that would exist in the building over the next several decades. At about the same time, a blacksmith shop, a carpenter shop and a shoe store were also established. By the 1830s, the building began to be used as a hotel and a rooming house. Prince Maximilian Neuwied, the German explorer and scientist, and a group of scientists even set up a laboratory in the building in 1832. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, various businesses moved in and out, constantly providing an array of shops and services for the town, including everything from taverns to churches to schools. Other businesses included a telegraph office, a post office and a Knights of Pythias Hall. Prominent local officials and businessmen also lived in the building from time to time before the building was sold to the state in 1940. Since that time, the state has used the building for a variety of purposes. Currently, we are renovating Dormitory #2 to accommodate a climate control system and an elevator. When the renovations are complete, there is no reason why the building won’t be around to welcome visitors for the next 200 years or more!

What is this stuff?

by Jeff Tenuth, Science and Technology Collection Manager

[Continued from Uncovering the truth]

There are two questions that a historian asks at this point: What is the material I’m looking at and what does it mean? In other words, what does this material tell me about the world of the past? How does it help me to understand how people lived their lives? By retrieving and analyzing this material, we can learn how people lived, what they ate, the kinds of materials they made and used, the kind of work they did and how they played. Science finds the material and history tells us what it means. And you would be surprised at what we’ve found over the years.

Bone fragments tagged and bagged.

What we find generally falls into five different categories: faunal, glass, ceramic, metal and (what I call) “everything else.” Faunal material consists of various animal bones, teeth, snails, mussels, egg shells, seeds and anything else organic. This material helps us understand what people ate nearly two centuries ago. Diet might not seem very important, but by analyzing what people ate, we can determine part of the general state of their health. Continue reading

Uncovering the truth

by Jeff Tenuth, Science and Technology Collection Manager

I’ve always loved history. As a little boy, I would read history books and go to museums with my parents because I wanted to see cool things and I wanted to learn about the past. Even then I realized that the past must have something to do with the present. I went to college, got two degrees in history and learned how to be a professional historian. It’s no surprise then that I ended up spending the last 27 years working in museums. But it is a little odd, or so I’m told, that I would end up being the Science and Technology Collection Manager at the Indiana State Museum. Many scientists and historians don’t think they have much in common; but they actually do because they both seek the truth. They just do it in different ways. Nor are the differences that big. If this sounds simplistic, well, it is.

To me it is simple because we all seek the same truth. Whether we’re talking about 50 years ago, 5,000 years ago, or five million years ago, both scientists and historians want to know what happened and why. One of the reasons we do it differently is because scientists, especially archaeologists, use the human made remains of the past such as buildings, pottery or personal adornments. Historians use primarily the writings of the past. So our source material is different, but there is nothing wrong in using each other’s raw material if we’re both going in the same direction. That is what I try to do here at the Indiana State Museum.

Continue reading

Digging up treasure

by Mike Linderman, Site Manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site and Western Regional Supervisor

A profile of the floor of one of the Mississippian houses, with the fire pit in bright orange.

The sounds of shovels and trowels can be heard at Angel Mounds State Historic Site! Students from IUPUI are peeling back the surface of the site to reveal the remnants of the culture that lived here 900 years ago. Under the direction of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at IU, these students are spending the next six weeks on the grounds, following in the footsteps of 72 years of archaeological work here. Due to the recent river flooding, they are currently plagued with mosquitoes and gnats of all sizes. This week, they are being lulled into a false sense of what lies ahead with the southern Indiana summer weather. Highs have been around 60 for the week, but we are sure the 90s and high humidity are not far away. More to follow over the next six weeks …

A piece of painted Mississippian pottery sticking out of the wall trench.

Ruffed grouse makes an appearance at T.C. Steele

by Mary Ann Woerner, Intermittent at T.C. Steele State Historic Site

Brigitte R. Grouse

On April 10, T.C. Steele State Historic Site staff member Davie Kean spotted a ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) hen when she arrived at work. She told me the grouse seemed quite tame and was almost following her around. I was hopeful that I could catch a glimpse of a bird that I had never seen before. When I arrived at work a few days later, there she was in the middle of the driveway. She appeared to be waiting to greet me!

What an opportunity for an avid bird-watcher and amateur photographer! I had time to grab my camera from the office and follow this cute little hen, spending 15 minutes taking her picture and shooting some video. I later learned that she had followed a tour group the previous day. On Saturday, April 16, a Bloomington photography club came to the site and members were treated to an appearance of the grouse. Because she is such a frequent visitor at the site, we have given her a name: Brigitte R. Grouse.

The river runneth over

The mighty Ohio River has been spilling over its banks onto our State Historic Sites this week … Lanier Mansion’s gardens in Madison got more than watered, and Angel Mounds in Evansville saw more than their share of flooding as well.  Hopefully better weather this weekend will help to dry things out. We’re also hoping that all these April showers bring beautiful May flowers!

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April showers in Brown County (umbrellas included)

Written by Davie Kean, master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site

The arrival of spring might be described as lenient, merciful and mild. These terms are also the definition of the word clement, Theodore Steele’s middle name.

I’ve never lived in a city, but I expect that city dwellers also have budding expectations as the end of winter becomes more than just wishful thinking. We all await signs of spring — snowdrops, short sleeves — even rain! A bluebird’s trill one day, a drift of daffodils the next. Spring is cumulative.

Actually spring is more of a dance — two steps forward, one step back. After being teased by temps in the low 70s, it’s back to barely above freezing — but great weather for clearing out the flower beds in Selma Steele’s historic gardens. For you, T.C. Steele’s studio and the country home he shared with his wife Selma offer a glimpse into the past and the arrival of a new season, while sheltered from inclement weather.

T.C. Steele staff member Mary Ann Woerner captured this cheery April scene, despite the drizzle.

Although the site has much to offer on sunny days, (a hike along our wooded trails, a meditative moment at the cemetery, or a stroll through the historic gardens) it’s just as inspiring when the forecast turns gray. Sure, you could remain comfortable and cozy at home, but why not experience a bit of life in the early 1900s — and feel even more comfy in comparison?

Just as 40 degree temperatures feel cool in April but warm in January, comfort is relative. The Steele’s lifestyle (a term yet to be invented in their day) was opulent compared to that of their new Brown County neighbors, but mainstream in Indianapolis, where they usually wintered until 1916.

Eventually, Nature’s attractions overcame convenience, and T.C. and Selma decided to stay in Brown County year-round. Our schedule now coincides with theirs — we’re open year-round — whatever the weather. Don’t let the rain stop you from visiting. We’re high and dry on Bracken Hill.*

Experience spring in both 1907 and 2011. Let your expectations rise along with the waters of Salt Creek. Next time it rains, take a trek to Brown County and enjoy art, history and nature on 211 acres. Leave your umbrellas at home — we have plenty to spare.

*If spring floods leave the road underwater, call 812.988.2785 for detour directions.

A sunny update for a historic sunroom

Written by Davie Kean, master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site

The name of the historic home at T.C. Steele State Historic Site is more poetic than accurate today, but when the house was built in 1907, breezes caused the screens enclosing the sleeping porch to sing — earning it the name The House of the Singing Winds.

Warmed by winter sunshine and fresh paint, this pleasant room is just waiting for furnishings to bring it alive.

As houses (and lifestyles) evolve, the use of space often changes, and so it did with T.C. and Selma’s Arts & Crafts style home. When the couple began staying on the windy hill year-round, the south-facing porch was converted to a sunny room for breakfast, napping and numerous flats of seedlings that would eventually find a home in Selma’s Gardens.

I imagined it was a hard choice to make in those pre-air conditioned days — sacrificing such a comfortable place to sleep in summer for a warm and welcoming room in winter. As it turns out, the Steeles had both.

Close inspection (and some head scratching) by site and regional Restoration Specialists concluded that someone had devised a clever system of seasonally rotating the window screens and storms — and storing them very close to home.

The wall cavity beneath each of the windows was designed to house the lowered window sash in summer. Both the top and bottom sash of the double hung units fit into the space, leaving the entire window area open. What makes this clever?

Usually with double hung windows, the lower sash is raised into position in front of the upper sash, so only half of the window area is open to accept any breezes wafting by. With the Steeles’ set up, when the screens were installed in summer, the entire opening provided ventilation — in effect turning it back into a porch for the season.

This discovery was made as plans were made to restore the space. It’s amazing how much research is necessary before the public gets to see the final product. Details, such as what species of wood were used for the architectural elements, determining color through chemical paint analysis and choosing appropriate furnishings all had to be researched.

Since the House of the Singing Winds was used for many years as a Caretaker’s Residence, a lot of restoration work involves undoing previous renovations. Historic site staff must be detectives as well as interpreters. Steele’s paintings, Selma’s letters and historic photos taken by Frank Hohenberger were consulted.

These recent photos illustrate some of the clues that helped inform an accurate representation of the house as it was when T.C. Steele was alive:

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The room isn’t quite ready for visitors yet, but you can still get a quick peek when touring the House of the Singing Winds. Stop by, whether the sun’s shining or not.