Just for the fun of it!

by Dale Ogden, Senior Curator of Cultural History

I’ve dealt with some pretty heavy business in the exhibitions I’ve curated at the Indiana State Museum during the course of my career. Years ago, we produced Indiana at War, which chronicled the state’s involvement in America’s military conflicts. One of my favorites, Objects of Desire: Cars and Clothes of the Jazz Age featured classic Indiana-made automobiles like Duesenberg and Stutz. The sexy cars and slinky clothing, though, were just period props that allowed us to talk about things like Prohibition, racial mixing in jazz clubs and the rise of organized crime. 2010’s With Charity for All, our contribution to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial observation, involved such lighthearted topics as chronic depression, the loss of a child, the slaughter at Antietam and assassination.

So, every now and again, it’s nice to do an exhibition if for no other reason than just the pure fun of it. Chaos is a Friend of Mine: Cultural Icons from the Jim Irsay Collection would qualify as one of those projects.

From 1979 to 1989, "Tiger" served as the main instrument for the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia. On loan from the collection of James. S. Irsay.

For the uninitiated, Indy will host Super Bowl XLVI in February and everybody in town is looking for a way to get on the bandwagon. Our in is that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay will host the NFL Owner’s Party at the museum a few days before the big game. I hear it will involve several hundred of Mr. Irsay’s closest friends, an A-list comic as MC, some well-known Baby Boomer rock-n-rollers for entertainment and a smidgen of top-shelf libations.

To our great good fortune, in addition to owning the local NFL franchise, Mr. Irsay is also a collector of international reputation. His prize possession is Jack Kerouac’s 120-foot-long manuscript scroll of the Beat Generation manifesto On the Road. But Irsay’s interests are remarkably … eclectic. In addition to the aforementioned treatise, guitars that belonged to Elvis Presley, Keith Richards, George Harrison and others are among the artifacts he has acquired. Austin Powers’ famed horn-rimmed glasses, a copy of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail script, letters from Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, and a myriad of other treasures are to be found within the Irsay Collection.

We’ll be exhibiting a sampling from this trove from Jan. 27 through May 6. It’s been a fun project to assemble. Any time you have the opportunity to quote Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Frankenstein and George Will in the same text, you’ve got to enjoy yourself. More to come.