Valuing volunteer time

Written by Karine Huys, Coordinator of Volunteer Services

Monday night was our annual volunteer recognition here at the Indiana State Museum. We had a lovely picnic theme with a pot-luck dinner and, at last count, there were 102 different items to choose from on the buffet table! Besides all the great food, we also presented our annual awards.

Over the last year more than 500 volunteers contributed 23,399 hours, valued at nearly $474,000! A highlight of the evening’s awards is always the top 10. These are the volunteers who have contributed the most time during the last year.

10. Nancy Crafton, 346 hours, valued at over $7,000
9.  Larry Boyer, 354 hours, valued at over $7,100
8.  Elizabeth Hohman, 385 hours, valued at over $7,700
7.  Barbara Parker, 422 hours, valued at over $8,500
6.  Kathy Lee, 428 hours, valued at over $8,600
5.  Janice Snowden, 431 hours, valued at over $8,700
4.  Jane Ann Buchanan, 542 hours, valued at over $10,900
3.  Bruce Herriman, 582 hours, valued at over $11,700
2.  Katy Edwards, 586 hours, valued at over $11,800
1.  Gerhard Gennrich, 641 hours, valued at over $12,900

These 10 volunteers contributed 20 percent of the total value of all hours donated last year!

We also recognized 11 volunteers who have contributed more than 200 hours to the museum in the last year and 39 volunteers who have contributed more than 100 hours. We also had several volunteers who contributed over 100 hours to a specific program in the museum. These programs included: the Naturalist’s Lab, Celebration Crossing, Guest Services, Collections/Curatorial Assistance, Program Support Team, Museum Store, Collections Computer Support, Covered Wagon program, Conservator Assistant and Gardening.

If any of these areas sound interesting to you, please contact the volunteer center at 317.232.8351 or

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An unassuming hero

So many people think heroes are larger than life. Superman, Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Barack Obama, Michael Jackson, Odysseus, Lance Armstrong, Eleanor Roosevelt, Todd Beamer, Rosa Parks … the list is endless. And maybe they are larger than life, but most of them don’t start out that way — except for maybe the fictional ones.

The back of the Levi Coffin house.

Along U.S. 27 in Fountain City, just north of Richmond, is a red brick house that was once the home of Levi and Catharine Coffin. The Coffins were Quakers who had moved to Fountain City (it was Newport at the time) in 1826 from North Carolina in part because they were staunch abolitionists. This house and its property is now the Levi Coffin State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark.

Why? Well, Levi and his wife were heroes to more than 2,000 slaves who were risking their lives for the sake of their freedom. They were unassuming heroes as, by day, Levi was the owner of a mercantile in Newport while Catharine kept house — sewing, cooking, cleaning — for their six children. By night, their home often became a refuge for escaped slaves seeking their freedom in Canada. The Coffins sometimes housed as many as 17 slaves at one time — feeding, clothing and caring for them until their journey resumed. And they did this at great risk to themselves.

The second floor crawlspace is on the left (the inset shows the inside). The false-bottom wagon is on the right.

My recent visit to the Levi Coffin State Historic Site gave me a glimpse into life on the run for escaped slaves. Though the Coffin house had many amenities for hiding slaves — from a hidden crawl space on the second floor and an indoor well in the basement to a false-bottom wagon in the barn — it must have been a terrifying experience. Not to mention unbearably hot in the summer and brutally cold in the winter. But for 20 years, the Coffin family generously provided food, clothes, shelter and moral support for those who needed it most.

Volunteer Janice McGuire explains some of the kitchen tools to a group of visitors.

Speaking of unassuming heroes … the Levi Coffin site is run completely by volunteers who care for the property, the artifacts and provide educational experiences for school groups and other visitors — including me! They tell a great story and work hard to make sure visitors come away with a sense of life in the mid-19th century. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH)  just awarded them the Albert B. Corey Leadership in History Award for their “vigor, scholarship, and imagination.” Congratulations to Saundra, Janice and the rest of the crew! Keep up the good work!

For more information about the Levi Coffin State Historic Site, visit

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Volunteers from near and far

Written by Karine Huys, Coordinator of Volunteer Services

The Indiana State Museum recruits volunteers of all age ranges, skill levels and interests. But I decided this afternoon that I wanted to see how far reaching our recruitment was geographically. So I sat down at my computer, opened our volunteer database and pulled up the mailing addresses of all the current volunteers and interns. After some extensive sorting in Excel, map questing and rounding to the nearest whole number, I have a very impressive list. And here it is in Top 10 style …

10.       Anne from Danville at 22 miles
9.         Karen and Vic from Franklin at 23 miles
8.         David and Sue from Greenfield at 26 miles
7.         April from Franklin tied with Lilly from Lafayette at 30 miles
6.         Julie from Jamestown at 31 miles
5.         Linda from Coatesville at 33 miles
4.         Alice and Bob from Knightstown at 39 miles
3.         Carolyn from New Ross at 40 miles
2.         Nell from Columbus at 56 miles
And our farthest traveling volunteer at 59 miles — Karen from New Richmond!

Since I figured out who the farthest traveling volunteer was, I also decided to see who was the closest. It was close —no pun intended — and we have several people who walk to the museum for their shifts, but Barry is officially the closest at .53 miles. Our runner up, Carol, was only about one tenth of a mile farther.

While the Indiana State Museum sits in the heart of White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis, our volunteers are coming to us from miles and blocks away! If you are interested in learning more about volunteering, contact the volunteer center at 317.234.2449 or see the volunteer page on the museum’s website.

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Welcome new docents!

Written by Karine Huys, volunteer coordinator at the Indiana State Museum

How time flies! It seems like just yesterday (even though it was early September) that the third class of docents began their training here at the museum. They graduated as full-fledged docents on Wednesday — and just in time!

Docents, docents-in-training and volunteers alike have been hard at work filling volunteer positions associated with the Lincoln exhibits. The graduating class will have their first chance to officially volunteer as docents during the Going Green festival here at the Indiana State Museum in late March, where they will staff an activity about water turbidity (turbid: deficient in clarity or purity according to Webster). A few of them will get to try their hand at giving an Architecture Tour to a group of museum visitors. And as bookings for tours continue to pick up as the weather (hopefully) improves, they will all get a turn at leading tours.

Congratulations to Steve, Barbara, Larry, Bob, Glenda, Donna, April, Herb and Robert!

Find out more about our Docent program.

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