Hoosiers and the Academy Awards®

by Katherine Gould, Associate Curator of Cultural History

When you think of Hollywood and the Academy Awards® you naturally think of Indiana, right? Well, you should. Hoosiers have been making an impact on the silver screen from the earliest days of motion pictures. Some of the most popular and celebrated films to come out of Hollywood proudly feature the mark of a Hoosier. Some you may be aware of — James Dean, Steve McQueen, Hoagy Carmichael, Sydney Pollack. While you may be less familiar with some of the others.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented their first awards at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929. It was there that Louise Dresser of Evansville lost out to Janet Gaynor for the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in A Ship Comes In. And I’m sure everyone has seen the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life at least once in their lifetime. If so, then you’re familiar with Valparaiso-native Beulah Bondi who played Ma Bailey. A graduate of Valparaiso University, she went on to earn nominations for Best Supporting Actress in Gorgeous Hussy (1936) and Of Human Hearts (1938).

And what about that Easter staple The Ten Commandments? Queen Nefertiti was played by Michigan City’s own Anne Baxter. A granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright, she had her breakout role starring in the 1942 film adaptation of Indianapolis-native Booth Tarkington’s, The Magnificent Ambersons directed by Orson Welles. She later won Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Razor’s Edge (1946), a film which also featured a Best Supporting Actor-winning performance by Indianapolis-native Clifton Webb. Baxter would again be nominated for Best Actress in All About Eve (1950), a film which also received a Best Art Direction nomination for Kokomo’s George Davis. A bit of a film legend, Mr. Davis received 19 Academy Award nominations throughout his career for his work on such classics as The Robe (winner, 1953), Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), The Diary of Anne Frank (winner, 1959), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), and Cimarron (1960).

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Now, Steve McQueen isn’t one of the lesser-known Hoosiers in Hollywood, but are you familiar with director and producer Robert Wise? The Winchester-native directed McQueen in The Sand Pebbles (1966), for which he also received a Best Picture nomination as the producer of the film. And the year before, he paired up with cinematographer Ted McCord of Sullivan County for the classic The Sound of Music (1965), for which Wise won Best Director and Best Picture. The double win was also a feat Wise had achieved earlier for a little picture called West Side Story (1961). Now McCord, too, was no stranger to working with fellow Hoosiers: in 1955 he teamed up with screenwriter and Evansville-native Paul Osborn and a then-unknown actor from Fairmont named James Dean for the 1955 epic East of Eden. Both Dean and Osborn received nominations for their work on that now-classic film.

What is iconic in Indiana?

Recently, while working on a new project, I was tasked with coming up with things that are iconic in Indiana. Of course, for a foodie like me, most of the things that pop into my mind are edible. Pork tenderloins, persimmons, fried biscuits, sugar cream pie, fried green tomatoes and sati-babis are just a few. Food-related activities like mushroom hunting, shopping at roadside veggie stands and sharing the road with combines and tractors, comes in second.

To others, Indiana is racing and basketball and high school football rivalries. It is chiggers and marching bands or universities like Purdue and IU.

But I’ve noticed that when you’ve lived someplace your entire life, it can be difficult to see how unique it is because it’s what you’ve always known. Such is the case for me with tenderloins and mushroom hunting. It wasn’t until I met someone from Cleveland who I invited mushroom hunting, that I realized that not everyone is familiar with our Hoosier way of life. Do you ever talk to someone from somewhere else and reference Sammy Terry or Cowboy Bob? When they look puzzled, you realize (with sadness) that their childhood as non-Hoosier must be incomplete.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that most people outside of our great state have never experienced the joy of a battered and fried tenderloin bigger than a plate.

So my question for you is: What makes Indiana different than anywhere else? If someone wants to experience real Indiana, what should they do? If they want to take home a real Hoosier souvenir to document their trip here – what do you recommend?

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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Lincoln in the House

Museum curators have been incredibly busy lately, now that Lincoln is “in the house.” Hundreds of artifacts that make up “our” portion of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection* are being unpacked, cataloged, inspected, researched and generally readied for exhibition. The excitement is building, as media are becoming aware of the collection’s treasures.

Here’s one piece that I was able to see; this flag is unique for a couple of reasons. It was at Ford’s Theatre the night of Lincoln’s assassination, for one. It is also unique in that it has just 13 stars, most likely representing the original 13 states.

Dale Ogden, Indiana State Museum Chief Curator, with Ford's Theatre flag

Dale Ogden, Indiana State Museum Chief Curator, with Ford's Theatre flag

*(The LFFC was donated to the State of Indiana in partnership with the ACPL by Lincoln Financial Foundation in December of 2008. The Indiana State Museum will be home to all 3-D items while most archival objects will reside at the ACPL.)

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Jackson 5 at the Indiana State Museum

Michael Jackson is, without a doubt, the most internationally famous person ever to come out of the Hoosier state. We are saddened by the loss of this incredible talent. I took a walk down to the “famous Hoosiers” portion of our gallery to see some Jackson 5 artifacts. Turns out we have costumes worn during a Sonny & Cher show in the 1970s, as well as some other interesting things, with another costume about to rotate in (museums rotate things in and out, to protect the artifacts from exposure to light, etc.).

I also spoke with our Chief Curator of Cultural History about the collection and how a museum goes about acquiring say, Michael Jackson’s glove. Shouldn’t the State Museum in his home state have more of such fabulous items from his life, to share with other Hoosiers?  I guess its a lot more complicated than that…

 That leaves donors; which wealthy Hoosier will step up and donate items to the state collection? Who would enjoy going to auction…. then generously share their finds with the public?

Sarah from Carmel enjoys a Jackson 5 costume worn in a 1970's Sonny & Cher Show performance

Sarah from Carmel enjoys a Jackson 5 costume worn in a 1970's Sonny & Cher Show performance

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Of Orchids and Onions

Indiana has enough wild orchids to write a book about, and Michael Homoya wrote it. (Orchids of Indiana, 1993. Indiana University Press) I’m still discovering which ones can be seen at T.C. Steele State Historic Site. Even if I don’t know exactly where to find them. I have it on good authority that the Selma Steele Nature Preserve is home to both the Showy Orchis and the Whorled-Pogonia.

During this year’s Wildflower Foray, I spotted the single leaves of the Cranefly Orchid on the Wildflower Trail. No blooms though. By the time they flower, the leaves will have disappeared. What caught my eye was the deep purple color of the underside of the foliage. Maybe I’ll see them bloom if I’m ambitious enough to hike the trail every day in July and August.

ladies-slipperI don’t think the Showy Orchis is Brown County’s showiest orchid however. That honor has to go the the Yellow Ladies Slipper. I suspected it grew on the site, and sure enough one day I spotted one as I neared the entrance. I’d been driving right past it for several days judging by the condition of the blooms.

All of these orchids are nice, but we have onions too. Our one healthy Walking Onion was planted just last fall, so it hasn’t started walking yet. The chives are now covered with lavender blooms, creating large blocks of color in the formal garden. Later in the summer, their cousins the Garlic Chives will send up their own white globes.

I don’t know why onions have such a bad rep. They’re easy to grow, pretty to look at, dress up a salad (the blossoms are edible) and have lots of health benefits. I’d say they both have their place. The beautiful orchids hide modestly in the forest. The onions are all around — utilitarian, but beautiful just the same.

Davie Kean is the master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.

Considering a Pet?

scales_tails_greyhoundsWarm weather and spring showers have crept in this year and it’s a good time to think about our pets and the other wild critters that share this great state with us. Since it’s also the time of year when we think of baby animals, we should keep in mind that pet over population can affect both pet owners and non-pet owners. Luckily, spay and neuter organizations offer low-cost procedures and trap-and-release programs offer ordinary citizens the chance to help curb feral cat populations in a humane way.

scales_tails_snakeThe sheer number of adoptable dogs and cats in Indiana has rescue groups working overtime to find them loving homes. Not only do they have so many great animals available for adoption, but they work with potential pet parents to make sure the animal and owner are well matched. If you’re looking for a mellow cat, an energetic dog, or maybe a bird to keep you company, there are groups who can give you the 411 on what you can expect from these animals and what would be expected from you.

Check with one of the many Indiana rescue groups if you’re considering a new pet or would like to help out as a foster parent. Whether you’re fond of a specific breed of animal or you’re partial to “mutts” there are groups that need your help.

scales_tails_dog_hugWant more information? Enjoy a chance to meet many of these hard-working people and some neat animals during Scales & Tails Fest – A Celebration of Pets on Saturday, June 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Indiana State Museum. A number of breed-specific dog rescue groups will be on-hand, as well as those specializing in exotic animals and cats. New this year is the Reptile Room which will feature a collection of reptiles from the Hoosier Herpetological Society and native species from O’Bannon State Park.  There will also be live demonstrations, educational presentations and take-home crafts! 

For a complete list of participating organizations, visit the official Indiana State Museum website’s Scales & Tails page.

When I Say, “Arbor” You Say, “Day”…

Marcus Harshaw, museum program specialist and Arbor Day facilitation extraordinaire, shares his thoughts on the 2009 Arbor Day Celebration.

Children enjoying the "Trees, Who Needs 'Em" program.

Children enjoying the "Trees, Who Needs 'Em" program.

Did you ever say, “I want to be an arborist when I grow up?” Me neither, but after another successful Arbor Day Celebration, it has me considering a career change! (Part-time of course) The day was filled with so many activities and so much to learn about trees that one could not leave the museum without a new respect for trees.

Greeted at the front door by Indiana 811’s Holey Moley, over 1,700 visitors from schools across the great state of Indiana were on hand to participate in the festivities. DNR Forestry distributed free redbud trees to everyone to plant in their own backyards and ran out of trees by noon! Tim Womick returned to play his classic role as Johnny Appleseed, and a towering 15-foot tall Smokey Bear was on hand reminding us that only we could prevent forest fires.

arbor_day_smokeyTim’s visit was joined by Treesearch Scientist Professor Arbor E. Tum, and Indiana’s favorite survivor Rupert Boneham of Survivor: Pearl Islands and Survivor: All Stars. They all joined forces to teach everyone about proper tree care, stewardship. We were all reminded of the wonderful things trees give us including oxygen, and food. Trees create a treecosystyem and provide plants and animals with shelter and food. Trees even help the treeconomy by providing jobs! One job in particular is one held by Chad Brey. As an arborist he climbs trees to take care of them, and demonstrated how to climb trees by climbing up and down the side of the café building in the Governor O’Bannon Great Hall! My favorite part is when Tim asked the audience if it was ever okay to cut down a tree, and we all answered no as if we were hypnotized! Of course the answer is yes it is okay to cut down trees as Tim reminded us with a roll of toilet paper.

After the t-shirts were distributed and the Frisbees were tossed into the crowd, it was time to plant a tree! Dozens of students migrated to the redbud garden on the east side of the museum to help Tim plant this year’s redbud tree, and as quickly as the event began it was over. Learn, teach, give away free stuff, and have fun? All in a day’s work at your Indiana State Museum.

Until next year,

When I say Arbor, you say Day, ARBOR …

Guest Blog: Native American Plant Use

dani-tippmanNiila Myaamia! (I am Miami!) If you have been outside, or even looked through a window lately, you can see all the changes that are going on in nature. The rain has encouraged some of the first wildflowers to peek out and the sun enticed them into blooming. There are ephemerals of all types! On a recent walk I saw everything from wild geranium to spring beauty and even a few skunk cabbage! Many folks tend to focus on the beauty of the woodland flowers in Indiana. Although they are beautiful, we shouldn’t forget the many other applications for which the spring wildflowers can be utilized. Many are foods, medicines or used for technology.

Even the lowly skunk cabbage has its place. Did you know that the Miami used skunk cabbage as food? Considering the smell that exudes from the well named skunk cabbage, it is hard to believe that it was used for food. Still, there were times at the end of a long winter that any green food would have been appreciated. I believe that it was a survival food because it is one of the first green plants to come up, it is relatively easy to find and always easy to identify. But, I believe that it was relegated to being only a survival food, and not used regularly because of the smell!

If you live near a pond or ditch you may know the cattail plant. Its little sprouts are above the water and waiting to hold a place of honor on someone’s plate! Last fall we enjoyed roasted cattail roots, but now it is time to harvest a few of the young sprouts and cook them up similarly to asparagus sprouts. I like to add a little butter and salt to my cattail sprouts, but I think that a little butter and salt makes a lot of things taste better! All parts of the cattail are useable, if not for food then for something else just as handy.

Next time you come to the museum, make sure to stop by and see me. We can talk about some of the plant’s other uses or uses of other plants!


Meet Dani at the Indiana State Museum on the following dates:
Friday, April 24
Thursday, May 7
Friday, May 22

Visit the official museum website at www.indianamuseum.org for more information about Dani’s demonstrations.

Dani Tippmann is a Native American demonstrator at the Indiana State Museum.

I “heart” trees!

Planting trees on Arbor Day.

Planting trees on Arbor Day.

By definition, I’m probably not what you’d call a tree hugger. I’ve never attended a protest or chained myself to a tree (or anything else, actually) and I’ve never gone on a hunger strike for the cause. Perhaps I should though, because I really dig trees. I loved climbing them as a kid and investigating what kinds of critters lived in them; and even old, dead trees meant the possibility of morels in the spring!

Since moving to “the big city” several years ago, I’ve especially missed having lots and lots of trees around. Luckily for those of us who need our tree fix, city and state park systems help provide a welcome reprieve from the daily bustle, treeless commutes and new subdivisions with their fresh landscaping. But we also need to do our part to make our yards, neighborhoods and cities more tree and nature friendly.

Carving trees with a chainsaw.

Carving trees with a chainsaw.

So in honor of trees, the Indiana State Museum, Indy Parks and Indiana Urban Forest Council are throwing a little party (okay, who are we kidding – we throw a HUGE party) to celebrate trees. We invite Tim Womick to come all the way up from North Carolina to get us hyped about planting trees and being good stewards of our environment. We have experts from across the state, including Dr. Speer from the Indiana State University Dendrochronology Lab in Terre Haute. (Dendrochronology: the science dealing with the study of the annual rings of trees in determining the dates and chronological order of past events.) We have a chainsaw carver, beekeeper, wood turner and tons of other groups. Then we invite the Department of Natural Resources down to pass out free trees to everyone!

As spring rolls in and the weather gets nicer, it’s time to head out to the park and enjoy the shade of a big oak tree and watch squirrels frolic in the branches. And hey, if you are looking to plant a tree or see a great Arbor Day show – stop on by the museum on April 24. We’re always looking for more muscle to help with our own tree planting.

For more information about the Arbor Day Celebration or to see a short video from a past event, please visit the official museum website: www.indianamuseum.org.