Uncover Indiana's secrets at this world-class institution, featuring unique exhibits and hands-on experiences that showcase the unique stories, events and characters that have helped shape Indiana's history. Located in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis, the Indiana State Museum brings the best of the museum world to Indiana. Spanning three floors of Core Galleries, the museum tells the story of the Hoosier state, and features a year-round calendar of exhibits that dive deeper into Indiana art, science and culture. Constructed completely from Indiana materials — including limestone, sandstone, steel, brick and glass — the building itself is a work of art, with icons representing each of Indiana’s 92 counties integrated into its exterior walls. Step inside, and you’ll be invited to explore Indiana’s past, present and future through scientific, cultural, historical and art exhibits that help define our place in the world.
The mission of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites is to celebrate, explore and steward all that is authentically wondrous about Indiana.
The ISMHS is a forward-thinking, unparalleled resource for learning about and appreciating Indiana and its role in the world. We discover, collect, preserve, interpret and present artifacts and exhibits that showcase the stories of Indiana's natural and cultural history, art and science.
Board of Directors
William A. Browne Jr., Chair
Andrew Dahlem, Ph.D., Vice-Chair
Sandra Kemmish May, Secretary
Thomas A. King, President & CEO
Gregory L. Pemberton, Past Chair
Stefan S. Anderson
Maclyn (Mac) Parker
Minerals and other
The original collection of the Indiana State Museum was started in 1862, during the Civil War, when State Librarian R. Deloss Brown began collecting minerals and other curiosities that he kept in a cabinet. In 1869, the Indiana General Assembly enacted a law which provided “for the collection and preservation of a Geological and Mineralogical Cabinet of the Natural History of this State.” A state geologist was assigned the task of labeling and organizing the collection, becoming the first employee of the Indiana State Museum.
The natural history collection quickly developed beyond the legislature’s original intent when hundreds of cultural items, many relating to the recent Civil War, were added. Soon the collection was a museum of sorts, with a hodge-podge of curios and specimens.
Fits and Starts
The museum’s collection was displayed in a spacious room on the third floor of the State Capitol building in 1888, but it didn’t remain there for long. It was frequently moved from room to room until 1919, when the collection was sent to a most inhospitable place, the basement of the Statehouse. It would languish in this location for almost 45 years, completely closing once in the late 1920s and again in the early 1960s.
Then, during the administration of Governor Ralph H. Gates (1945-1949), important steps were taken to establish a new and modern state museum. Staff members who knew how to care for artifacts and operate a museum were hired. Possible sites for a new facility were studied and designs created. Philanthropist Eli Lilly, excited by the prospect of a professional-quality museum of Indiana heritage, donated the ground on the northwest corner of Ohio and Senate streets to the state. Unfortunately, the plans fell through, probably due to the $3.5 million price tag.
Later, the administration of Governor Harold W. Handley (1957-1961) and the legislature authorized a commission to examine the state museum. The commission recommended the construction of a building on the site originally proposed by the Gates administration. The commission reported that its members had “been forced to the reluctant conclusion that Indiana has the poorest and most inadequate state museum in the United States.”
A Real Home
It wasn’t until 1962 that Governor Matthew E. Welsh (1961-1965) approved the resumption of the planning for a new state museum, but with a very different direction. The Indianapolis City Hall at 202 N. Alabama St. had become vacant in 1961. The state and the city worked out an agreement for the museum to use the building. The structure was to undergo massive renovations to prepare it for life as a museum, at a cost of about $830,000.
In 1967, the Indiana State Museum opened its doors in its first real home. It had four floors and a basement in which to develop exhibits, store and preserve collections, and provide office space for staff.In 1969, the Indiana State Museum Society (now the Indiana State Museum Foundation) was established to provide a private, fund-raising support organization. Also in 1969, the Indiana State Museum Volunteer Organization was established to support the small museum staff. By 1976, the museum had received accreditation from the American Association of Museums.
The Heart of White River
As years passed and the collection grew, the old City Hall was becoming too small to meet the needs of the institution. Proposals were made in the late 1970s and mid-1980s for a variety of additions to the facility. Some involved purchasing nearby buildings, and others involved creating brand-new facilities that would connect to the old City Hall building.
The museum’s board voted to move to White River State Park in 1984. However, it was not until the late 1990s that the Indiana General Assembly appropriated funding for an August 1999 groundbreaking for what would become the current Indiana State Museum.
The Indiana State Museum closed its doors in the old City Hall on Dec. 31, 2001, to prepare for its move to a new home at 650 W. Washington St. in the heart of White River State Park. On May 22, 2002, the new Indiana State Museum welcomed more than 5,000 visitors into the new building.
Today, the Indiana State Museum continues to explore Indiana's science and culture. Visitors come to celebrate, investigate, remember, learn and take pride in Indiana's story in the context of our broader world. Look around our website for a peek at what you can find today at the Indiana State Museum!
Are you a college student looking for real-world museum experience? The Indiana State Museum has internship opportunities available in nearly every department.
COLLECTIONS CARE INTERN— at NEW HARMONY STATE HISTORIC SITE
This position is located in New Harmony, Indiana. The Collections Care Intern would assist with the inventory and care of the artifacts and documents in the collection. Work includes checking collections updating data before the information is entered into the site collections database.
CULTURAL HISTORY COLLECTIONS INTERN
Intern will use research skills when reviewing and organizing findings allotted by the supervisor in order to develop new exhibits. The intern will then analyze his/her findings in comprehensive reports written to achieve understanding in a specified subject. The intern will be provided with feedback to evaluate his/her findings. This opportunity is available year round to candidates with a background in history, African American studies, Women’s Studies and related fields.
The primary purpose of the Development Intern is to better understand the development process through event coordination and management; research; data entry, and assisting in creating various Development materials. Tasks may include researching donor prospects; assisting with event planning and preparation; data entry of donor information; developing a variety of materials and other duties. Ideal candidate will have strong oral and written communication skills; be computer-literate; be enthusiastic and flexible; able to manage multiple projects and tasks, and meet deadlines; and have an interest in the development/fundraising process. Possible majors include nonprofit management, philanthropic studies, and business/finance, although others may apply.
EXHIBIT MAINTENANCE INTERN
Assist with the creation and maintenance of permanent and temporary exhibits throughout the museum. Basic skills in carpentry, painting and cleaning recommended. Must be able to stand on ladders and stoop to work at low levels. Recommended fields of study include: Theatre Arts, Set Design and Museum Studies.
EVENTS and SPONSORSHIP INTERN
The Events and Sponsorship Intern will assist supervisor in event planning process, fundraising events, sponsorship and overall nonprofit operations. Key functions will be assist in planning and executing the events.
FACILITY RENTALS INTERN
Intern will assist the Facility Rentals Manager and Event Planners with the management of vendors, caterers, security, maintenance and housekeeping staffs needed for planned events. Intern will learn how to manage museum Master Calendar, logging external and internal events taking place. Intern will network with clients, meeting and convention planners, event planners, and clientele for private events. The intern will evaluate and carry out follow ups to events. Intern will attend networking events, trade shows and bridals shows when applicable. Intern will attend internal meetings with Facility Rentals Manager and Event Planners and external meetings with clients. Intern will be responsible for researching and generating lists for potential leads determined by Facility Rentals Manager.
FINANCE / ACCOUNTING INTERN
The candidate for this position should be able to help with budget reporting and analysis, prepare invoices for payment and track accounts payable, filing, run reports and other accounting duties as needed. Experience with Microsoft Excel and Word required. Preferred major in Finance or Accounting.
GRANT WRITING ASSISTANT—at GENE STRATTON-PORTER STATE HISTORIC SITE
This position is located in Rome City, Indiana. This intern position will assist the Site Manager, Development Department and Grant Administration with appropriate portions of the grant cycle. This position will assist with writing and editing grant proposals, data mining, prepping reports, research possible funders and confirming grant related files are in audit ready condition (need based on the time of year).
HISTORIC RESEARCH INTERN - at CORYDON CAPITOL STATE HISTORIC SITE
This position is located at Corydon, Indiana. Intern will utilize a variety of mediums to locate human interest pieces, quotes and fascinating stories from the days when Corydon served as the state capitol. The intern’s work will be used as educational vignettes at the Corydon State Historic Site during the State’s bicentennial celebration in 2016. The ideal candidate will have strong computer skills and experience researching historic topics. A passion for Indiana history is a plus. Suggested majors are: History, Library Sciences, and Museum Studies, although other degree areas will be considered.
MANAGEMENT—VOLUNTEER SERVICES INTERN
Intern will assist the Volunteer Center staff in a variety of projects including volunteer management, public relations, recruiting, orientation, and training. Intern will also have the opportunity to develop his/her own projects within the scope of the volunteer program, including: research, evaluation, delegation, organization, and development of marketing tools. As part of the internship, the successful candidate could have the opportunity to attend professional development workshops, professional networking meetings, community outreach fairs and more. This intern-ship is available year round and is open to a variety of related majors, including Human Resources students. Prior experience as a volunteer and interest in the field of volunteer management is desired.
The Marketing Intern will work with the marketing department to increase the consistency, visibility and awareness of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites’ brand. The Marketing Intern will provide support to the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites’ marketing team in the updating of community calendars, assisting in the development and updating of the Marketing Dashboard, and implementation of exhibition marketing plans.
MARKETING INTERN - at GENE STRATTON-PORTER STATE HISTORIC SITE
This position is located in Rome City, Indiana. The Marketing Intern will work with marketing department to increase the consistency, visibility and awareness of the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site. Collaborate efforts with the marketing department of the Indiana State Museum to ensure consistent branding guidelines.
PERFORMING ARTS INTERN
Intern will assist the performing arts staff in the development, creation, and execution of a variety of performing arts programming for the Indiana State Museum and related settings. Intern may interpret historical characters and vocal or instrumental performances. The intern may research the necessary information to construct a performance. The intern may also provide technical support and assist in the writing of scripts/text/music for a performance. The ideal candidate will have experience and training in theater, music, voice, instruments, performing arts or related fields.
PROGRAMS INTERN – at T.C. STEELE STATE HISTORIC SITE
This position is located in Nashville, Indiana. The Historic Site Programs Intern provides assistance and support to the Program Developer. The intern must be able to follow directions, think creatively, and offer informed suggestions regarding visitor experience, program updating and expansion, etc. In their work with the public, the intern will assess visitor behavior, questions and needs, and respond professionally and appropriately. The Programs intern maintains approved contact with volunteers, Friends groups and other partners as appropriate and has the opportunity to impact local community perception of the site and its staff and facilities.
PUBLIC RELATIONS INTERN
The Public Relations Intern will work within the marketing department to assist monitoring all forms of media, write community calendar advisories, search for press clippings, create or up-date databases and greet media onsite. Students applying for this internship must have strong communication skills and should be majoring in Public Relations, Communications, Marketing, Journalism or other related field. Applicants should also have strong writing skills, as well as a solid understanding of social media. Only interns proficient with Microsoft Office applications should apply.
VIDEO PRODUCTION INTERN
The Video Production Intern will assist the New Media Manager with creating audio and video components for specific exhibits as well as on the web. This internship offers opportunities to do script editing, creative project planning, shooting video of events, compiling music for lobby playlists, assisting with set up and tear down of interview shoots, creating video archives, and editing video for a variety of media projects.
For more information about these and other internships, please contact:
Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites Corporation
650 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone 317.650.9584 Fax 317.232.7090
1816 Young Professional Advisory Board
To apply to be part of our 1816 Young Professionals Advisory Board, please click here and fill out the form.
Be a part of showcasing Indiana’s past, present and future. Museum volunteers play a critical role in ensuring that each visitor has an amazing experience. Whether you have a passion for art, science or culture, or just want to share a dose of Hoosier hospitality with museum guests, we have a volunteer opportunity to interest you.
The Indiana State Museum is one of Indianapolis’ premier rental facilities. With a wide variety of distinctive spaces available, extraordinary views of downtown Indianapolis and a team to work with you from idea to execution, the museum can transform into a space that is uniquely yours.