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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Installing Lincoln

Installing a museum exhibit is pretty easy, right? Just throw the artifacts in some boxes, transport them to their galleries and hang ’em up or set them out in display cases. NOT! Months, sometimes even years, of planning come before installation begins.

We are now down to a few short weeks of installation madness before both Lincoln exhibits, With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition and With Charity for All: The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, open at the Indiana State Museum on Feb. 12. Both exhibits are being installed simultaneously, adding to the growing anxieties and craziness. Work began last week with the museum’s exhibits department painting gallery walls and getting wall graphics installed. The Library of Congress cases and the new With Charity for All exhibit cases were lined up and installed in their appointed places within each gallery earlier this week. The time has arrived to start installing the artifacts.

Installing two separate exhibits at the same time is quite an undertaking, but one Indiana State Museum staff has completed many times prior to the Lincoln exhibits. However, installing two separate shows, one loaned and one created in-house, is a different challenge. And when you consider that many of the items in the exhibits are national treasures … well, let’s just say that stress levels are high.

We began installing artifacts from the Lincoln Financial Foundation collection on Monday. These artifacts are part of the first exhibit created by the Indiana State Museum since the State of Indiana acquired the collection from Lincoln Financial. Staff from the Library of Congress arrive next week to begin installation of the artifacts for With Malice Toward None. All artifacts from the Library of Congress exhibit must be uncrated, unwrapped, condition reported and then installed into the correct exhibit case. It will be a crazy few weeks at the museum for staff involved in the installation, but well worth our efforts once both exhibits open to the public.

  

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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Prozac, anyone?

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

Twenty-seven days, two hours, six minutes ‘til we cut the ribbon and open the Lincoln exhibits to a select group of VIPs. The general public – by the thousands – will begin entering the galleries 16 hours later. I used to think anxiety attacks were invented by narcissistic baby-boomers. Being one myself, I can get away with saying that about my people.

I am not suffering an anxiety attack. I can, however, see a light at the end of the tunnel, and that bright beam focuses one’s attention with a bracing intensity. Let’s say great anticipation rather than high anxiety. That’s much more confident – accurate, too.

We’re in great shape. The Library of Congress portion of the project is in the house. Artifacts like the Bible Abraham Lincoln (and Barack Obama) took their oaths on, and a hand-written copy of Abe’s first inaugural address are acclimating to our environment. We’ll start unpacking crates on Monday.

We’ve signed off on proofs of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection exhibit script, and all the support graphics, and we’re going over final elevations for which artifacts are going in which cases. All the mounts for our artifacts are built, conservation is largely complete, and our new display cases are in staging waiting to be placed in the galleries.

Plans for staff and volunteer training, visitor traffic control and security are in place. Schedules for “Members Only” functions are established. Educational programming and entertainment activities are a go. I’m doing the two to four press opportunities a week – print and electronic media – that I’ll be doing through February, in addition to the customary appearances before service groups and other interested organizations.

Production of a souvenir brochure is in the final stages. Video clips for the Lincoln trivia kiosk have been received from the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, PBS analyst Tavis Smiley and several other Hoosier notables. Indiana’s most infamous cat, Garfield, has cut a clip that we haven’t seen yet. The “Kids Look at Lincoln” video is almost done. It’s great, and not just because my two little clones are the stars of the show. Planning for the ribbon cutting and celebration gala are proceeding full throttle. There’s more, much more!  I’m waaaay past my word limit – again!  Crud!  I understand we already have over 10,000 reserved timed-tickets via our website. Come see us!

Anxiety attack!?! Pish-posh. Piece-O-cake!

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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