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!

Calling all Hoosiers!

In 1861, in the wake of the start of the War Between the States, Abraham Lincoln called the nation to action to quickly raise an army and Indiana answered. Men of all backgrounds stepped forward to preserve the Union, many whom had no military training of any kind. These men had to leave their homes, families and lives behind to train and become a part of a larger cause, one that brought our country back together, but not without sacrifice.

2011 is the first of four years the country will celebrate the sesquicentennial (that’s 150 years) of the Civil War. Battle recreations and other events are happening all over the United States to honor this period in American History. Indianapolis itself has a piece of Civil War history and is a place that thousands visit every year. Ever wonder how Military Park received its name? This patch of urban landscape, then known as Camp Sullivan, was used to train and stage, or muster, troops during the Civil War.

To honor Indiana’s, as well as Military Park’s, role in the war, the Indiana State Museum is hosting Muster in the Park on Saturday, Aug. 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Get a taste of what it was like for both the men and women who sacrificed their livelihood for the greater cause of preserving the Union. Meet soldier re-enactors on the museum’s front lawn as they demonstrate the drills that turned everyday men into war-ready soldiers. Don’t miss a chance to get into the thick of the action by joining the ranks to see if you have what it takes to train as a Civil War soldier. See how medical practices created during the Civil War have influenced modern medical procedures. See how women adjusted to life without their husbands, fathers and brothers. Hands-on activities will help children experience 1860s life for children of the same age. And don’t miss Abraham Lincoln and other historical characters as they all give their perspective on the war itself.

Come prepared to watch the Civil War come alive!

“The Beard is the Handsomeness of the Face” -R’ Akiva, Eicha Rabbah

Blog authors and bearded brethren Joey Smith and Eric Todd are currently working on the upcoming program Curls, Cornrows & Comb-over’s: Investigating the Do’s, Don’ts & Science of Hair.

Joey Smith ponders pogonotrophy.

The study of beards and facial hair is ‘pogonology,’ the art of growing facial hair, ‘pogonotrophy.’ How do I know this? I grow a beard. I have one. I have friends who have beards. Why don’t you know these words? Well, I’m assuming because you don’t wear a beard. And let me tell you this: There is no point in knowing these words if you don’t plan on growing a beard. Why? Because the true pleasure of these words comes from sitting back and contemplating the art of pogonotrophy while stroking your finely groomed Ducktail.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “You only know this because you work for the museum and you’ve been charged with hours of research devoted to hair and beards for the upcoming program Curls, Cornrows & Comb-overs.” Spoken like a true baby face. I’ll have you know, I’ve been a beard aficionado for years. I appreciate the devotion evident in a grizzly summer beard and the artistic sensibility behind a well-cropped Van Dyke. Personally, I’ve worn everything from Mutton Chops to a Fu Manchu and, being a beard wearer, I understand the subtle nuances that come with wearing facial hair. The head nods between bearded strangers acknowledging each other’s perseverance, the hierarchy of beards and mustaches and the ability to be able to spot a ‘poser’ a mile away. These are all things a true beard wearer knows or sometimes just feels. It’s all part of owning a tract of facial hair.

For the longest time I thought I was the only one who had such pride in my pogonology prowess, but then I thought about all of the great men through time who sported beards. After all, the Imperial beard is named after Napoleon III (not to be confused with the clean-shaven tyrant Napoleon I). Aristotle and Abraham Lincoln are fellow members of the bearded community. And we all know Einstein is known best for his mustache. 

Hans Langseth and the world’s longest beard.

Granted, Curls, Cornrows & Comb-overs is about more than facial hair. There will be an abundance of information related to the hair on top of your head, including hair care tips, demonstrations, activities, games and even hair-readings. But I know that I’ll be taking special notice and nodding with respect at my bearded brethren across the museum’s Great Hall on Jan. 29. Until then, as my gift to you, enjoy these pearls of bearded wisdom. You should probably write this down or bookmark this post:

  • Did you know the last American President to wear a full beard was Hoosier Benjamin Harrison? That was from 1889 to 1893. Rutherford B. Hayes had the longest beard of the American presidents. ‘Rutherford B. Hayes?’ you ask. You’re right, I should change it; the beard makes him Rutherford B. Awesome. I apologize for the error.
  • The average male will grow about 27 feet of hair out of his face in a lifetime.
  • “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” Sent by 11-year-old Grace Bedell, this line was the reason Lincoln grew his iconic beard before leaving Illinois for the White House.
  • When he died in 1927, the beard of Hans Langseth of Norway measured 17.5 feet. You can see Langseth’s beard at the Smithsonian Institution.

And just in case you need one last bit of inspiration, I leave you with the words of our friends at TheBeardly.com: ‘Without a beard, you’re the same as every other woman and child.’

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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The floodgates are open!

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

Holy cow! It looks like we may have pulled this thing off! I mean, staff at the Indiana State Museum are gratified and encouraged by the public’s reaction to the unveiling of the recently opened Lincoln exhibitions.

Curator and blogger Dale Ogden, Abraham Lincoln and Dale Martin of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce.

Governor Daniels and company helped cut the ribbon for about 200 VIPs on Feb. 12. Two days later we had nearly 600 at the big For the Love of Lincoln Gala, and according the society pages of the local newspaper, the soirée was a smashing success. My tux’s burgundy vest was a very nice touch, thank you very much.

The crowds started coming the first day we opened to the public, and it appears they may have peaked this weekend. I understand we had over 1,300 visitors on Saturday, and guest services tells me that yesterday (Sunday) has been even busier. Members Only and extended public hours had dozens of patrons in the galleries until 8 p.m. for several days last week.

None of that would account for anything if the experience wasn’t top of the line. I’m hearing that the show is everything people were hoping for. Abe’s poem about Indiana, the contents of his pockets the night of his assassination and the Bible upon which both he and President Obama took their oaths are particular crowd favorites in the Library of Congress exhibit. For Civil War buffs, Lincoln’s correspondence with McClellan, Hooker, Burnside and several of his other generals is especially compelling.

In our Lincoln Financial Foundation portion of the project, visitors are drawn to the family photos owned by four generations of the family. Of course, signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment are evoking powerful reactions. It’s also great fun to see kids watching video of their peers discussing Mr. Lincoln.

The piece the History Channel put together is a personal favorite. Watching Marian Anderson sing and Dr. King speak from the steps of the Memorial is moving, and it’s entertaining to watch Republicans and Democrats — left and right — all claim the Lincoln mantle. Henry Fonda and Gregory Peck both make great Lincolns, but I get the biggest kick out of Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We always felt there would be something for everyone in this exhibition. There is.

Come see us! I guarantee you’ll be kicking yourself for a long time if you don’t.

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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The 11th Hour

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

I haven’t had a chance to blog for the past few weeks; not because there hasn’t been anything to say, just the opposite — we’re in full hyper-drive. I appreciate Traci covering for me in the blogosphere.

Except for last minute tweaks, the script is finished and ready to go to the printer. Most of our exhibit labels are brief and basic. This is the first time I’ve really been able to expound. Thanks to the Library of Congress producing about 35,000 words for their show, I’ve been able to write 16,000 for ours. After 25 years, I can finally say, “I’ve said just about everything I have to say on this subject … for now.” Thanks to Susannah for editing me. Any halfway decent writer will tell you that, next to their spouse, their editor is the most important person in their life. If I wasn’t already happily married, I’d ask S.K. tomorrow. She may not have saved my life, but she at least salvaged my reputation.

New media production is going great. NASCAR’s Tony Stewart, WNBA star Tamika Catchings, PBS commentator Tavis Smiley and astronaut David Wolf are just a few of the Hoosiers who’ve cut videos for our Lincoln trivia kiosk. We have additional celebs lined up, just working on schedules. We had to move the kiosk out of the gallery and into a lobby because we don’t want to create a traffic jam with the people using it. Popularity is a nice problem to have to overcome.

Custom-made display cases are arriving from Germany today. They may be on the loading dock as I write. If they are, that will be a huge relief. If they’re here that means they’re not on a railroad siding outside of Baltimore. Would have been a shame to have our icons in custom mounts laid out on folding tables … not to mention a security nightmare. Just kidding … sort of.

I promise to be a more diligent blogger. Come see us! Feb. 12 through July 25! Oh, and happy holidays!

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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The personal Lincoln

Treasures continue to surface as the Indiana State Museum collections management staff processes the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection. One tiny object, a token from President Lincoln to a grieving widow during the height of the Civil War, illustrates the personal side of a president who has become an icon of American history.

This decorative bird picture features a wooden frame with a circular well in the center that is trimmed in copper; a nature motif is crafted within the well. A brown tree with green leaves is hand painted against a white background. Two birds with beaded eyes and painted beaks are constructed from blue, green and red feathers. One bird is perched on a tree branch hovering over a nest, while the other bird forages for food on the ground below the tree. A piece of convex glass covers the motif. A hanging ring is attached to the top. Newspaper backing is found on the reverse, as well as the number 30 carved into one corner.

A postcard dated June 14, 1963, from the donor reads: “Dear Sirs, I just had given to me a small picture, there were two looks hand made of a bird real feathers not in very good condition, but it was given to my friend’s mother by Pres. Lincoln. Her husband’s body was never found and Mr. Pres. entertained my friend and gave her these little gifts as a memo of her visit to him. It’s a shame to throw it away and anyone collecting Lincoln can have it for a collection piece …” [Editor’s note: The spelling and grammar are from the original postcard.]

Wow! It is the little finds like this that help make this collection so special!

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 Lincoln

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

So, like I was saying, as curator of the Lincoln exhibition, I get to have all the fun … and … it’s good to be famous. If the show goes in the tank, which it won’t, I’ll take far more blame than I think I’ll deserve. If on the other hand, it’s a blockbuster, which it will be, I’ll get far more credit than I deserve. There are about 50 people working on the project right now, but I’m the one who gets to put a name — and occasionally a face — on it. People are always telling me how much fun my job must be. Sometimes it really is.

lincoln_heritage_trailThe most fun I’m having these days is traveling around the state shooting video with Leslie, our New Media Manager. We’re putting together some pretty cool interactives and we need a lot of video, audio, still photos and other resources. Driving around shooting video of Hoosier sites related to Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War and/or the Underground Railroad, I’m reminded how pretty Indiana is. I know that must sound like an oxymoron to some, but don’t take my word for it. Get off the dang couch and take a look for yourself.

Civil War graves on the Ohio River in Perry County

Civil War graves on the Ohio River in Perry County

Drive up the Whitewater River Valley between Madison and Richmond, or cruise along the Ohio on Indiana 66, both east and west of Tell City. Find a couple a stretches of the Old Lincoln Highway — Route 30 — through Whitley, Kosciusko and Marshall Counties. Stop and explore a pioneer cemetery or two along the way, or imagine what that ruined old motel looked like in 1957 when it sat out on the edge of town … out on “the main road.” Is there any such thing as the edge of town anymore? Watch out for chiggers, though. I swear, if I was hiking at the North Pole I’d still come down with a bad case of chiggers.

Shoot! I was going to talk about Crown Hill Cemetery where 1,200 Confederate POWs are buried alongside Union generals and vice-presidents, not to mention a president, and veterans of the 28th U.S. Colored Troops … and John Dillinger. I wanted to mention the Lew Wallace Study in Crawfordsville, where the old war horse penned Ben Hur, and Gentryville where Abe Lincoln’s mother, sister and nephew are buried. But, I’m over my word limit. Maybe next time. People say I talk too much. I guess I write too much, too.

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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Researching & Writing Lincoln

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

With the portion of the spectacular Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection that is to be housed at Indiana State Museum (finally) home, we’ve dramatically shifted gears. After being consumed by the effort to acquire the collection for 16 months, we can now dive into the artifacts and get our hands dirty … metaphorically, of course. Yes Jane/Cindy, I wear my white gloves, religiously. I am not a Philistine.

Thousands of prints, engravings, framed artworks, sheet music, sculpture and 3-D artifacts have been unpacked and temporarily re-stored. Jeana, Meredith and others in Collections Management have been cataloging items for the February exhibition and Conservation has been looking for condition issues. I am, however, the one who gets to have all the fun.

We have about half the time I’d like to have to put the exhibit together, so I’m writing furiously. I enjoy writing, so it’s not a chore, but exhibit labels have their own challenges. Unlike a book, or even an article, you don’t have the luxury of wandering. Limited to 25 to 200 word snippets, you’re pretty much restricted to “Just The Facts, Ma’am.” It’s still fun, though. So far, I’m up to about 6,500 words worth of snippets.

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Processing Lincoln

This ornate, double-sided, folding memorial fan was made for Mary Todd Lincoln in 1865 as a memorial for her husband, Abraham Lincoln.

This ornate, double-sided, folding memorial fan was made for Mary Todd Lincoln in 1865 as a memorial for her husband, Abraham Lincoln.

After all of the artifacts from the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne arrived at the Indiana State Museum at the beginning of June, museum employees began processing the collection. Each artifact in the Lincoln collection must be cataloged following museum standards in the Indiana State Museum database. Digital images are taken of each artifact that are then linked to the museum’s database. The current condition of each artifact is also accessed and any artifacts with urgent issues are immediately addressed. The final step in processing these artifacts before placing them into storage is physically numbering each artifact. Individual artifacts are assigned a unique accession number to track that piece in the database, to assist with the writing of the museum’s professional reports and to facilitate the development of related exhibitions. With several thousand artifacts to catalog, that is a huge project to complete.

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