As a museum, we are the keepers not only of facts and objects, but also of stories – and it’s part of our mission to share those stories with you. The purpose of this blog is to share the stories of our history, artifacts, volunteers, staff and more. Be sure to check this space for updates, and follow us on social media to learn even more about who we are and what we do across the state of Indiana.

Five idol-worthy women of Hoosier history

Who says you have to come from a big city or a wealthy family to make an impact? This Women’s History Month, we look at five bold Hoosier women who made it possible for today’s women to be an integral part of the workforce, strong political voices and pioneers in various fields. Polly Strong (ca. 1796 – ?) Freewoman | Vincennes, Knox County Why she’s idol-worthy: Polly Strong stood up for herself and fought for her freedom despite people trying to hold her back.... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Kotnik at Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Curt Burnette combines love of nature, history at Limberlost State Historic Site

By Hannah Kiefer Curt Burnette has had many jobs over the years. He’s been a zookeeper. An administrator. A Cajun swamp tour guide. An alligator handler behind the scenes at the “Today Show” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” But today, he works as a program developer and naturalist at Limberlost State Historic Site – and he constantly goes beyond his job description to serve all visitors to the site. Limberlost State Historic Site... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Kotnik at Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Explore Indiana’s earliest history at Vincennes State Historic Sites

By Kelsey Cook Indiana may have become a state in 1816, but its rich history dates back much further. “If you want to get an idea of Indiana history, Vincennes is one of the first places people should see,” said David Weaver, site manager at Vincennes State Historic Sites .   This historic site, one of the 12 locations associated with the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, tells the story of Indiana before it was even a state, going back to the time... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Cook at Friday, March 9, 2018

Archaeological artifacts offer look at Indiana’s earliest history

By Kelsey Cook Employees of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites don’t work solely within the confines of the museum’s locations. In fact, they often participate in fieldwork across the entire state of Indiana. That’s a major component of director of archaeology Michele Greenan’s job. She serves as both curator of archaeology and protector of archaeological resources, specifically at the 11 historic sites around the state. “The properties we... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Kotnik at Friday, March 9, 2018

‘Lois Main Templeton: A Reinvented Life’ to explore the life of a well-known Hoosier artist

By Kelsey Cook Image Courtesy of Tom Casalini of Casalini Portraits Lois Main Templeton was 51 years old when she dove head first into the art world and left her mark on the Hoosier art scene. “I was in my 50s and 60s, and by that time, you’re not going to learn an instrument,” Lois said in a documentary for WFYI. “And I’m a klutz so I wasn’t going to dance. So what have you got? You’ve got paint. And it was just for me.” Now... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Kotnik at Thursday, March 8, 2018

Fred the Mastodon moves to permanent home at the Indiana State Museum

       Fred’s excavation In June of 1998, Dan Buesching was operating a dragline excavator on his family farm near Fort Wayne, digging up a clump of tree roots surrounded by peat moss from a lake. He was about to smash the mass with the dragline’s bucket when he noticed something that didn’t belong: Teeth. And these weren’t teeth like Dan had seen before – these were much bigger, and with a distinctive shape. In fact, Dan had... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Kotnik at Friday, March 2, 2018

Bringing home the gold: Exhibit developer recalls family’s Olympic past

By Hannah Kiefer When exhibit developer Cathy Donnelly recalls spending summers with her aunt Fraze Donnelly, she remembers swimming in Little Chapman Lake, near Warsaw, Ind. Fraze would take time every summer to teach Cathy and her sister to swim. They would spend afternoons floating in the water on inner tubes or going out on Fraze’s boat to fish or catch turtles. Fraze always loved the water and swimming, and for good reason. In 1924, Fraze competed – and won a gold... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Kotnik at Thursday, March 1, 2018

How does one ship a 150+ year old quilt made by Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker?

Staff Report When visitors walk into a gallery at the Indiana State Museum, they likely don’t notice the subtle changes. The lights are a bit dimmed. Overhead, spotlights highlight objects on the walls and in cases – each light set to the perfect level. There might be a drop in temperature, depending on the artifacts on display.  All of that – from the lighting to the thermostat setting – is intentional.  While the Indiana State Museum focuses much of... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Kotnik at Thursday, February 22, 2018

Culbertson’s legacy of benevolence continues on today

By Kelsey Cook Visitors to Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site learn all about the benevolent actions of William S. Culbertson – a man who used his wealth and influence to better the community.  Courtesy of Tyler Stewart, News & Tribune Though once considered to be Indiana’s wealthiest man, it’s his benevolence and care for his community that left the most lasting impression. Philanthropy and charitable giving are both forms of benevolence, but... Read More
Posted by Julie Schaefer at Thursday, February 15, 2018

Discover a masterpiece of Victorian artistry at Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site

By Kelsey Cook  When driving through downtown New Albany, Ind., visitors will find streets that are lined with beautiful historic homes, located right along the banks of the Ohio River.  One of these homes near the end of Main Street is Culbertson Mansion – one of the 12 locations associated with the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.  The home, which began construction in 1867 and took two years to complete, is listed on the National Register of Historic... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Cook at Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Volunteer shares stories of her ancestor at Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site

By Kelsey Cook  Visitors arrive to the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site expecting to learn a lot about the Underground Railroad and the important role that the Coffin home played in so many freedom seekers’ journeys to freedom.   But, if the y are lucky enough to visit on a day that Eileen Baker-Wall is volunteering, they will leave the site with an even better understanding for what freedom seekers went through before, during and after their time at the... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Cook at Friday, January 26, 2018

Rock on: GeoFest returns to Indiana State Museum

Staff Report Each year, rock collectors look forward to one of their favorite Indiana State Museum events: GeoFest. Gems, fossils, rocks, minerals, jewelry and more all will be on display to browse and purchase at this unique event Feb. 16 through 18. About 20 different vendors from around the nation will participate. Both younger and more seasoned rock enthusiasts will enjoy special programming to explore geology by making their own geodes or jewelry, seeing fluorescing minerals,... Read More
Posted by Julie Schaefer at Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sixty-plus Hoosier artists to showcase at Indiana Art Fair

Staff Report  From black-and-white photography to insects displayed in glass, the Indiana Art Fair offers an opportunity for guests to browse the offerings of more than 60 different Hoosier artists and engage with them about their unique art styles. The Indiana Art Fair is Feb. 10 and 11 at the museum. Art on display and for sale will include traditional art such as photography, paintings or jewelry, as well as some more unusual offerings – including pressed flowers, ceramics... Read More
Posted by Julie Schaefer at Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Rare documents signed by Lincoln to be displayed at Indiana State Museum

Staff Report  In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 15, visitors to the Indiana State Museum will not only receive free admission with donation of a canned food item for Gleaners Food Bank: They will also have an exclusive opportunity to see copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment signed by Abraham Lincoln.  The Emancipation Proclamation announced the freedom of slaves in Confederate-held territory, and the 13th Amendment ended legal slavery... Read More
Posted by Julie Schaefer at Monday, January 8, 2018

Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site shares stories of the Coffins, freedom seekers

By Kelsey Cook  Just 90 minutes east of Indianapolis in Fountain City, there is a simple red house that sits in the middle of town.  It’s an eight room, Federal-style brick home that initially appears similar to any other house built in the area during the 19th century.  Inside, however, visitors today will discover the secrets and stories of the many freedom seekers who stayed at the home during their journey on the Underground Railroad.  The Levi and... Read More
Posted by Kelsey Cook at Thursday, January 4, 2018