Welcome to the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. Here, you’ll experience the power of storytelling using people, places and things in ways that will inspire the imagination — with something for every age and interest.
With 12 one-of-a-kind destinations across the state, you can go ANYwhere and do ANYthing! Marvel at Greek Revival architecture? It’s here. March with Ice Age giants? Our mammoth collection of pre-historic skeletons will transport you to another place in time. Dig deeper into stories of social justice? Powerful exhibits cut to the heart of the matter, and play out in places that will dare you to think differently about the world around you. It all starts with a trip to one of the museum’s 12 unique locations. Where you go from there, well, that’s up to you.
THE ART OF STORYTELLING
Like art, history, science or culture? Here, we’re using our priceless collection (everything from mastodon bones to Lincoln artifacts) and 12 statewide destinations to share inter-connected stories about the world around us, preserve our state’s rich history, and create meaningful social interactions through integrated learning experiences.
How do we do that?
Our team creates experiences and exhibits designed to engage audiences of all ages and interests by doing more than just presenting you with stories and artifacts. They put those stories and artifacts into context. Not only can our staff tell you everything about an object — its age, make-up and historical impact — but they also make sure to share more about the time period it’s from, its cultural significance and why it’s worthy of being part of our permanent collection.
The key to delivering that kind of experience comes down to three foundational elements we incorporate into everything we do: artifacts, interaction and relevancy. Those three components get rolled together to share powerful stories (from a variety of perspectives) that pique curiosity, and open new doors to understanding.
That’s the heart and soul of our brand.
MAKING CONNECTIONS ACROSS THE STATE
Once you start to explore our museum network, you’ll soon discover how our downtown Indianapolis museum and 11 historic sites are connected through captivating storytelling threads based on topical themes and issues. For example, if you find something compelling in one of our special exhibits, you can often follow the thread of that story to indoor and outdoor experiences at one of our 11 statewide historic sites, and to galleries and special programming inside our downtown Indianapolis museum. The point is, you’ll experience the power of a cohesive museum network at work — all across the state.
INDIANAPOLIS AND BEYOND
Located in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis, the Indiana State Museum is a work of art itself. Built from Indiana limestone and sandstone, the museum’s exterior walls include sculptures representing each of Indiana’s 92 counties. Inside, the museum has three floors of galleries and special exhibits that explore Indiana art, science and culture from the state’s past, present and future.
Beyond our downtown Indianapolis museum, we have 11 more road-trip worthy historic sites. The power behind these unique destinations is that they are place-based — they put you in a specific place in time. But the real transformative potential of these unique experiences is revealed in the story of why we’re sharing these sites with you. Each one has a story to tell about the world we live in today! The lessons we learn from these special places and people — stories of perseverance, resilience, curiosity and determination — become catalysts for personal growth and success.
Now that’s historic!
To serve as a catalyst for informal lifelong learning that connects the stories of real people, places and things.
Be the leader in informal lifelong learning that is recognized, sought-after and celebrated regionally, nationally and globally.
About Our Historic Sites
From a 19th-century utopian community on the banks of the Ohio River to the scenic lakeside cabin of one of Indiana’s most beloved authors, the perfect day trip is just a hop, skip and jump away. Learn more about our 11 historic sites.
AMERICAN ALLIANCE OF MUSEUMS
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. The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, supported through philanthropic contributions from individuals, corporations and grant funders to the ISMHS Foundation.
OUR BOARD IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
The Indiana State Museum is privileged to have an incredible board of directors who believe in the power of museums. This passionate group of professionals is committed to our mission and dedicated to making our vision a reality. See the board of directors’ meeting schedule and audited financials here.
William (Bill) Browne, Jr., is the CEO and founding principal of RATIO Architects. Since establishing RATIO more than 40 years ago, Bill has led the expansion of the firm to six studio locations in Indianapolis, Chicago, Raleigh, Denver, Milwaukee, and Champaign, Illinois, with a growing national body of expertise, and an international presence with work in Korea, China, Malaysia, and Egypt. Many of the firm’s most significant projects are located close to his home state of Indiana, including the new hospital for IU Health, the Elanco Headquarters, the expansion of the NCAA Headquarters, the expansion to the Indiana Convention Center with the new Signia by Hilton Hotel, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, numerous higher education facilities, and of course, the Indiana State Museum. Bill is an active member of the Indianapolis community, currently serving as president of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. Bill also is the past chair of Downtown Indy, a commissioner with the White River State Park Commission, and a member of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, the American Institute of Architects, and Indiana Landmarks. Bill enjoys living downtown in the historic Lockerbie Square neighborhood with his wife Tiffany and their two Pomeranians, Renzo and Carlo.
Thao T. Nguyen is a Partner with the law firm of Plews Shadley Racher and Braun LLP. She focuses her practice on insurance coverage for policyholders and complex environmental and commercial litigation. She also handles transactions involving environmentally impacted real estate for both buyers and sellers. Thao represents companies, from international mega-corporations with billions in revenue to small, family-owned enterprises. She also works with municipalities, citizens’ groups and individuals on a wide variety of matters. Thao regularly presents on topics related to insurance coverage, from a general overview of the law for novices to more nuanced discussions for the advanced practitioner.
Thao is a past chair of the Indiana State Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section. She has served on the board of governors of the St. Joseph County Bar Association and is a member of the Robert A. Grant Inn of Court. Thao has been a grants panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Outside of work, Thao enjoys travel (especially food tours), tolerates running and boxing, and cherishes time with her husband and two hilarious daughters.
Andrew Briggs is retired after 50 years in the banking industry. He is the fifth-generation member of his family to serve as president of the Bank of Geneva. He is currently serving on the board of Farmers & Merchants State Bank, Geneva Town Council, Adams County Library System (treasurer), Adams County Economic Development (treasurer), Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority (chairman), Northeast Indiana Strategic Development Commission, Berne Indiana Chamber of Commerce (president) and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites (treasurer). He also has served on the board of the Indiana Bankers Association as chairman, and he is a member of the IBA Forty Year Club.
Liz Witte serves as the Chief Financial Officer of SIGMA Equipment in Evansville, Indiana. Prior to joining SIGMA, she was the Vice President of Planning & Corporate Development for Vectren Corporation.
Liz is a graduate of Ball State University, where she earned her B.S. in Finance and Master of Business Administration degrees. Liz is originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana but she and her husband, Ken, have resided in Newburgh, Indiana for over 20 years.
Cathy Ferree was named president and CEO of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites (ISMHS) on May 1, 2017. In her time at ISMHS, she has developed a new strategic plan for the institution, along with refreshed mission, vision and value statements. She has put relevancy at the forefront for the museum system, opening experiences to address topics important to visitors today, including “FIX: Heartbreak and Hope Inside Our Opioid Crisis” and “Major Taylor: Fastest Cyclist in the World.” She has also put new emphasis on attracting families and creating lifelong learners through initiatives such as a dedicated early childhood programming space called Firefly Landing. Prior to her time at ISMHS, she served as vice president and chief operating officer at Conner Prairie, overseeing facilities, programming, education, exhibits and more. Before her time there, she served as the associate vice president of exhibits at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis; director of exhibits, programs and operations on the first leadership team at The Children’s Museum of Atlanta; and more.
Ferree currently serves as a board member for the Walther Cancer Foundation Inc., Park Tudor School and Asante Art Institute of Indianapolis Inc. She is also a member of the Noyce Leadership Institute and the Getty Leadership Institute. Ferree has more than 30 years of experience in the museum industry. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Affairs in Nonprofit Management from Indiana University.
Melissa Caito, community volunteer, was chief operating officer of the Indy Championships Fund, Inc., an organization tasked with raising more than $25 million to support the planning and execution of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, the 2021 NCAA Men’s Final Four and the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Previously, she served as vice president of external relations and community affairs for Indiana Sports Corporation, Director at NCAA, vice president of marketing for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and other positions. Melissa serves as a chair or member of numerous committees, project teams and community organizations. She graduated from Indiana University, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in sports marketing and management.
Charles Cammack, Jr. most recently served as Chief Operations Officer of Fort Wayne Community Schools. Prior to employment with FWCS Mr. Cammack worked for Philadelphia Newspapers Incorporated as Vice President of Human Resources.
Mr. Cammack earned a bachelor’s degree at Purdue University-West Lafayette and holds a master’s degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Cate currently serves as vice president for research at Indiana University and is a Distinguished Professor and C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law at IU’s Maurer School of Law. He is also a senior fellow of IU’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research. Cate is an elected member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute, and he is a fellow of Phi Beta Kappa. He chairs the National Academies’ study on Law Enforcement and Intelligence Access to Encrypted Content and is a member of the National Academies’ Forum on Cyber Resilience, as well as other government and not-for-profit advisory panels. He also serves as a senior policy advisor to the Centre for Information Policy Leadership at Hunton & Williams LLP.
Andy retired in 2022 following a 40-year career with JP Morgan/Chase Bank, serving as Private Banking Executive Director and Advisor providing investment/banking services for high-net-worth individuals and families. He also has vast experience in loan organization, financial and credit analysis.
Andy is a graduate of Indiana University (1991, Bachelors of Science, Business) and Butler University (1994, Masters of Business Administration).
He has been a long-time community volunteer, providing his time, talent and leadership to many Indiana non-profits including the following organizations: Indiana Sports Corp, 2022 College Football Playoff Indianapolis Host Committee, Horizon League Local Host Committee, NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championships, NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championships, 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee, and RCA Tennis Championships.
Andy and his wife Sandy are parents to Kelsey and grandparents to Rowan and Evelyn. They currently reside in Zionsville.
Amber Finley is an Associate General Counsel at The Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County. Amber previously served as an Associate Consultant at Eli Lilly and Company, a Deputy Attorney General in the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, and in private practice at law firms in Indianapolis and New York City. She is licensed to practice law in Indiana and New York.
Amber is the 2023 President of the Marion County Bar Association, and the 2023 President-elect of the Junior League of Indianapolis (she will serve as President in 2024). She also serves as a board member on the Indiana State Psychology Board, Indiana State Museum Board, Indiana University – Robert H. McKinney School of Law Board of Visitors, and the Indianapolis Bar Foundation Board.
In 2021, Amber received the Indiana Lawyer’s Leadership in Law “Up and Coming Lawyer” Award. In 2022, Amber was named to the Indianapolis Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” Class of 2022. In 2023, Amber received the Junior Achievement of Central Indiana’s “Indy’s Best and Brightest” Award and was named the overall winner in the Law category.
Amber received her undergraduate degree from Tennessee State University, and her J.D. from Indiana University – Robert H. McKinney School of Law. She is a 2008 Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity (ICLEO) Fellow. Amber is originally from New Albany, Indiana, but has called Indianapolis home for the past 10 years.
Jordan V. Gathers, a California native who grew up in Los Angeles, has accomplished much in his career. From being a student-athlete playing basketball for Butler and St. Bonaventure Universities, he has now found his calling in municipal government, where he has taken part in numerous projects to improve the community. Currently serving as the Interim Executive Director for South Bend’s 33rd Mayor, James Mueller, his dedication and hard work have made a significant influence. Before his current role, Gathers worked in the healthcare sector at Indiana University Health at Methodist and University Hospitals, where he communicated effectively with internal and external stakeholders as part of the Office of the President, Dr. Ryan Nagy. In that role, he oversaw the strategic planning team for a multi-billion replacement hospital project and liaised between executive and staff members. Gathers hopes to inspire many, earning a B.S. in Journalism and Mass Communications from St. Bonaventure University and later completing a Master of Business Administration.
Professor David B. Go is the Viola D. Hank Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and Vice President and Associate Provost for Academic Strategy at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Go was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana until he graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (2001). Upon graduation, Professor Go joined General Electric Aviation (formerly G. E. Aircraft Engines) where he was a design engineer in the Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP) until 2004. While working at G.E., Professor Go also completed his M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati (2004). He completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering Purdue in 2008. Professor Go joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in 2008, and is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and past President (2019-22) of the Electrostatics Society of America.
Professor Go resides in South Bend, Indiana with his wife Beth, a garden and landscape designer and also a South Bend native, and his two children, Indiana and Donovan.
De’Amon Harges – faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute, Community Organizer, Creator of the Learning Tree, chairperson of the Grassroots Grantmakers Association Board, and featured in the new documentary “The Antidote: On Kindness in America” – is a frequent speaker on ABCD in secular and religious groups around the world, and is a layperson at Broadway UMC, Indianapolis, IN. De’Amon’s role is to listen and discover the gifts, passions and dreams of citizens in his community, and to find ways to utilize them in order to build community, economy, and mutual “delight.”
The bulk of De’Amon’s work is based on the principles and practices of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) that brings neighbors and institutions together to discover the power of being a good neighbor. De’Amon builds on what is already present and in place in the neighborhood, using those formally undiscovered assets to connect and empower rather than working only from the community’s needs and deficits.
DeAmon now describes his role on this planet as a social banker. He utilizes the intangible currencies that are cultivated and used by human assets and relationships to build a more abundant community.
Nancy Jordan serves on the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, representing Northeast Indiana’s District 3. Also, through Bulldog Consulting Services, Nancy provides executive expertise for Insurance Industry and other business clients. Prior to joining Bulldog, Nancy stepped down as Senior Vice President at Lincoln Financial Group to serve on Indiana Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission. At Lincoln, she served as SVP, Head of Individual Annuity Operations, responsible for the care of over 1 million annuity contracts and $130 billion in assets. She was a member of the company’s Corporate Leadership Group and site leader for the Fort Wayne operations. She served on the Lincoln Financial Foundation grant committee and also as the founding Executive Chair of Lincoln’s People with Disabilities Business Resource Group, leading Lincoln to 4 consecutive 100% scores on the Disability Equity Index Benchmarking. Active in community affairs, Jordan serves on the Indiana State Museum Foundation Board and the AWS Foundation Finance Committee. Her service includes the boards of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and she is past President of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board. Jordan holds a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University Fort Wayne and was named Outstanding Alumni by The Doermer School of Business. She is a CPA, is a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and held FINRA registrations Series 6, 26 and 27.
Peter Nagel is the Director of Pension Investments in Cummins’ Corporate Treasury department in Columbus, Indiana. In this role, Pete is responsible for working with internal and external strategic partners in pension governance, compliance, pension administration and HR to create the strategy for the company’s pension and 401(k) plans’ investments. He works with the Cummins Foundation and Dynamo Captive Insurance Company to assist with managing their investments. Pete also served as the Global Credit Manager and the Capital Markets Manager at Cummins.
Prior to joining Cummins, Pete worked in the Corporate Treasury department at Biomet Inc. in Warsaw, Indiana. Pete began his career working for Credit Suisse as an investment banking analyst in its Global Industrials and Services group in Chicago.
Pete is originally from northwest Indiana and is a graduate of Indiana University Kelley School of Business. He lives in Greenwood, Indiana with his wife and two children.
Angila is the Vice President, Environmental and Corporate Responsibility, for CenterPoint Energy, Inc. In her current position Angila is responsible for CenterPoint’s environmental and sustainability programs, and leads a team of 28 environmental professionals in CenterPoint’s Houston, Minneapolis and Evansville offices. Prior to joining the utility in 2001, Angila was Senior Bureau Counsel, Bureau of Mine Reclamation, for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and a Deputy Attorney General for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, where she represented the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in environmental litigation.
Angila grew up in Greenwood, Indiana, and is a graduate of Indiana University and University of Denver College of Law. She lives on a small farm in Posey County, Indiana, with her husband and two daughters.
Marc Samardzija is the Associate Director for Public Equity and Fixed Income Investments at Eli Lilly and Company where he conducts fundamental research, operation due diligence and portfolio management.
His career started on the trading floor at the Chicago Board of Trade and New York Mercantile Exchange as a Derivatives Trader and Portfolio Strategist. There, he specialized in the design and implementation of trading strategies across the interest rate futures and options complex. His interest in derivatives and fixed income led him to investment management opportunities at Federal Home Loan Bank Cincinnati and the Indiana Public Retirement System.
Marc earned his undergraduate degree from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and his graduate degree from Florida State University. He holds the Financial Risk Manager (FRM) and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) designations.
Judy Singleton, from Indianapolis, is a seventh-generation Hoosier with a deep interest in Indiana history. The author of two books on Indiana’s Trailblazing Women, Judy also is a businesswoman and community volunteer. In 1986, she co-founded Singleton Associates, a commercial real estate investment company. In 1990, she co-founded the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series, a program to develop women political and government leaders now with over 1,500 graduates nationwide. Named to an early list of “Most Influential Women” by the Indianapolis Business Journal, Judy serves on the board of the Lugar Series and has served on the boards of the Indiana Commission for Women, Girls Inc., Indiana Women’s Archives, the Indiana 4-H Foundation and the Purdue HSS Alumni Association. She received the Indiana Woman of Achievement Award from Ball State, the Hoosier Torchbearer Award from the Indiana Commission for Women, and was inducted into the Carmel High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame.
Mary Walker is the executive director of the Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau Inc., serving in that role since 1981. In addition to the Indiana State Museum, she is a board member for the Indiana University East Board of Advisors and Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce (WCACC). She also is a member of numerous community organizations.
John Wechsler is Founder and CEO of spokenote, the technology platform that allows you to “add video to anything.”
John has founded, co-founded, or served in C-level roles in several high-growth companies. Over the last decade, John’s efforts have been focused on entrepreneurial ecosystem development through the creation of Launch Fishers, The Indiana IoT Lab, and The Fishers Test Kitchen.
John serves on the Boards of Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Technology and Innovation Association, and Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.
John was recognized as the 2018 Trailblazer Award recipient by TechPoint, the growth accelerator for Indiana’s tech ecosystem. The award recognizes “visionaries whose contributions have had lasting and significant impact on our technology ecosystem and our state.”
In 2022, John was selected as a member of the Inaugural Indiana 250, recognizing the state’s most influential and impactful leaders across business, philanthropy, the arts, government and not-for-profits.
Prior to joining IBM to start his career, John earned a marketing degree from Indiana University where he participated in the School of Business Overseas Study Program in Maastricht, the Netherlands. John also served in the US Army as a Combat Engineer in the First Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas.
Michael Zick is an Executive Director and Banker for J.P. Morgan Private Bank. Mike oversees the sophisticated wealth scenarios of a diverse range of affluent clients, including successful individuals, current executives, post-transaction business owners and families with inherited wealth. He serves as a tireless advocate for his clients and their best interests, and is their first point of contact to help navigate the complexity of financial decisions.
Mike views his role as that of a counselor, asking questions to discover each family’s intentions for their wealth, the values they hold dear and any problems that need to be solved. He takes a planning approach, surrounding clients with a team of specialist resources matching their priorities and goals, from estate planning and philanthropy to investment choices and more. Mike is conscientious, detail-oriented and organized, fostering positive outcomes at every stage of his clients’ financial lives.
Over the course of 25-plus years in wealth management, Mike has risen to senior leadership positions and been an ally to clients at every step. His strengths include investment consulting, business succession, credit analysis and a deep understanding of the needs of ultra-high-net-worth individuals. The majority of Mike’s career has been with J.P. Morgan and its predecessor banks in the Kentucky and Indiana markets. He also spent a decade as a Senior Relationship Strategist at PNC Private Bank.
Mike is a graduate of Purdue University, where he earned a B.S. in Financial Counseling & Planning. He holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation.
Born and raised in Louisville, Mike cherishes family time with his wife, Wenda, and their six children—three already following in the Purdue University legacy. He enjoys sports of all kinds, and values involvement in the community, volunteering in many activities over the years. Mike currently serves on the Board of Directors and finance committee for the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.
Gary Anderson received his medical degree from the University of Michigan and continued his medical education at Indiana University. He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and Fort Bragg and subsequently became an academic cardiologist. After moving into the corporate world, he became CEO of several companies in communications and database management. Subsequently, he co-founded TL Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on high technology investments. Gary has held numerous positions in the nonprofit sector, including directorships in the Franklin Institute, Indiana University Foundation (IUF), Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation and served as chair of the IUF Investment committee. He has also served on the IU Advisory Boards of the Kelley School of Business, the School of Informatics and Computer Engineering, the Jacobs School of Music (chair) and the Center for Constitutional Democracy (chair). He is married to his wife, Kathy. They have five children and live in Indianapolis.
Andrew M. Dahlem, Ph.D. is a retired pharmaceutical research and development executive with over 30 years experience in discovery and developing modern medicine. He is now an entrepreneur skilled in research and development strategy, drug development, due diligence, portfolio enablement, competitive intelligence, clinical trial design, toxicology and drug metabolism. He has created a legacy of developing talented scientists with excellent mentor and coaching skills and a strong commitment to developing diverse talent to leadership roles. His early interest and passion for science was nurtured through employment as a Junior Naturalist at the Dayton Museum of Natural History in southwestern Ohio, and he maintains that passion today through his involvement with the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.
Gregory Pemberton is a retired partner from Ice Miller LLP, where his practice primarily concentrated in corporate representation of all categories of health care providers and tax-exempt organizations. He frequently speaks and writes on the topics of health care regulations and transactions, as well as corporate and tax aspects of Indiana nonprofit corporations. One of Gregory’s most important professional achievements arise from his more than 20 years of service in the leadership of the Health Law Section of the American Bar Association. He served on the Governing Council for six years followed by service as the secretary, vice chair, chair-elect and then chair of the Section. Gregory served as a member of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates for nine years representing the Section.
Alice Kingsbury Schloss is an Indianapolis native who has lived in Indianapolis most of her life. She also lived briefly in Newburgh during childhood, Massachusetts while attending Mount Holyoke College, Chicago as an intern for Red Cross’ Service to Military Families and Philadelphia for graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work. She and her husband Bob returned to Indianapolis in 1965 where they raised their two sons and a daughter. Though she received a Master of Social Work (MSW) from IU School of Social Service, Alice has made a career of volunteer service in educational, cultural, medical and social issue organizations. Though no longer an activist, she supports such not-for-profits as a board member and philanthropist. Current board memberships include Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Advisor Director, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Herron School of Art and Design Advisory Board, and Eskenazi Health Foundation.
A native of Pennsylvania, Robin Winston is a graduate of the University of Louisville. He has served as a Chief of Staff in government and is the former Chair of the Indiana Democratic Party during the term of Governor Frank O’Bannon. Now a successful businessman in Indianapolis, he runs one the largest minority-owned government-affairs, community-relations and public-outreach firms in the nation. Robin is a life member of the NAACP. In addition, he is a political analyst for CBS4 and FOX59.
A deeper dive into the history of the Indiana State Museum
The original collection of the Indiana State Museum dates back to the Civil War, when in 1862 State Librarian R. Deloss Brown began collecting minerals and other curiosities in a cabinet.
A Museum 150+ Years in the Making
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.
While the collection started as a natural history collection, it quickly grew to include objects and artifacts of all different types. 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.
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.
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.”
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 at 202 N. Alabama St., the previous location of the Indianapolis City Hall. 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.
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.
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 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.
By 2018, the museum’s collection boasted upward of 500,000 objects. Active science was taking 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. The current president and CEO of ISMHS is Cathy Ferree, who assumed the position on May 1, 2017.
As the Indiana State Museum celebrates its 20th anniversary at its home in White River State Park, the museum continues to be a space to explore Indiana’s science, culture, history, art and more. Visitors come to celebrate, investigate, 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 discover during your visit to the Indiana State Museum.