Published November 30, 2020

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? No.

These are a few of Marcy Dodson’s favorite things in the Indiana State Museum collection: a wreath made of hair, fossilized shark vomit and a giant sloth.

And that’s just some of what visitors will see when she leads her “My Favorite Things” museum tour at 11 a.m. Dec. 4, 11 and 18, and Jan. 8 and 15. (Tickets are available here.)

Dodson, the adult engagement and program manager for the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, created the tour because she wanted to offer an experience that would allow visitors to learn something beyond the label that accompanies each item.

“I know when I experience museums, I want to have a personal connection, that behind-the-scenes knowledge,” she said. “So the things I talk about, I flesh out why it’s interesting.”

Dodson’s hourlong tour focuses on 10 items, her favorite of which is a wooden mallet owned and used by Abraham Lincoln. Once a heavy maul used to make fence rails, it was repurposed by Lincoln after the head split. He marked it with his initials in metal and the date, 1829, in tacks.  The mallet came to the museum from descendants of one of his neighbors. It had been in their family for generations.

“I’d never even heard of it before I came here,” said Dodson, a Kentucky native who joined the museum staff two years ago. “It directly ties Lincoln to his boyhood home here in Indiana. In the election of 1860, they created an image of him as an everyman, a rail splitter, going out there working the fields. This is the tool he would have used to do these frontiersman tasks.”

Right now, Dodson is the only state museum staffer offering a tour of her favorite things. She hopes that in the next two years, there will be as many as four people doing the tour. In the meantime, the museum is offering another highly personalized tour, “Remembering Those Who Served” around Veterans Day. And private tours of the museum also are available.

Dodson said tickets for “My Favorite Things” make great holiday gifts because you’ll be giving someone an experience they can’t get anywhere else.

“We want people to go home with something in their mind—an experience, a thought, an idea—that they could not have gotten unless they were with a staff member,” she said. “It’s not just the connection with an object; it’s a connection to a person here.”