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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