About

Uncover Indiana’s Secrets

Uncover Indiana’s secrets at this world-class institution, featuring unique exhibits and hands-on experiences that showcase the 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, the museum tells the story of the Hoosier state, and features a year-round calendar of exhibits that explore 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 experience Indiana’s past, present and future through scientific, cultural, history and art exhibits that help define our place in the world.

The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites (ISMHS) is a state-wide museum system with 12 locations, including a central museum based in Indianapolis. Through the museum and its 11 historic sites, visitors are able to engage with the past and connect it to the present, carrying their newfound knowledge and experiences with them long after their visits end.

ISMHS was founded in 1869, when the Indiana General Assembly enacted a law providing for the collection and preservation of geological and natural materials on behalf of the State. While the collection started as a natural history collection, it quickly grew to include objects and artifacts of all different types. In 1917, the first of the 11 historic sites was established: Corydon Capitol State Historic Site. The other 10 were acquired up through 1976, in an effort to maintain historic sites around the state that pertained to especially important moments or stories in state history.

ISMHS was under the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) throughout most of its history, until a bill passed into law on July 1, 2011, making ISMHS a quasigovernmental agency. This means that while the museum is funded in part by the State, it functions independently in most aspects.

On May 22, 2002, the Indiana State Museum officially opened in its current location at 650 W. Washington St. The IMAX movie theater attached to the museum was there first, so the museum building was actually built around it.

The building itself is a work of art, designed by architect and current museum board president Bill Browne. The museum features representation of all 92 counties on its exterior walls, and all of the details are laden with symbolism of Indiana history – from the construction materials used to the patterns on the floors in the galleries. The story of the building is told in the book “Stone, Steel & Spirit,” sold in the ISMHS gift shop.

ISMHS is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, supported through philanthropic contributions from individuals, corporations and grant funders to the ISMHS Foundation.

Today, the museum’s collection boasts upward of 500,000 objects. Active science still takes place, with many of the curators working as researchers and conducting archaeological and geological digs out in the field at locations around Indiana. The museum has one of the three largest Abraham Lincoln collections in the world and provides free school trips for all Indiana K-12 students. In fiscal year 2018, the museum system boasted more than 165,000 visitors. The current president and CEO of ISMHS is Cathy Ferree, who assumed the position on May 1, 2017.

The Indiana State Museum, Angel Mounds State Historic Site, Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, T.C. Steele State Historic Site, Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site, Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site and Limberlost State Historic Site are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, whose mission is to champion museums and nurture excellence in partnership with its members and allies.

Mission

To serve as a catalyst for informal lifelong learning that connects the stories of real people, places and things.

Vision

Be the leader in informal lifelong learning that is recognized, sought-after and celebrated regionally, nationally and globally.

Who We Are

Board of Directors
History