by Nancy McCammon-Hansen
We’ve had a number of discussions around the History Center in the past few months about how people view history. Some have seen our display of computers as not being historical. But it’s been one of the more popular temporary displays that have been mounted in the past couple of years because it allows parents, grandparents and their children and grandchildren to all talk about something they have used, but at different stages of its development.
Others have suggested that you can’t really know anything about history until you’re old. As someone who has loved history since elementary school…and who is now older (in body—not in spirit!) than she ever thought she’d be…I can honestly say you can know something about history at any age. It’s also a great case for being a life-long learner.
We have also had some discussion about what sorts of museums we like…or don’t like. After touring the Indiana State Museum a couple of weeks ago, I’ve come to realize that I like history museums that focus on one person, such as a president, or one era, such as the 1960s & Woodstock.
The Indiana State Museum is right downtown in Indianapolis, within walking distance of many of the hotels. It’s next door to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. We didn’t take that one in—it was beastly hot and we’d walked enough for one day—but that one will definitely be on the list for another trip.
The state museum is currently featuring a Star Wars exhibit as one of their temporary exhibits. Quite frankly I didn’t understand why the state museum would feature Star Wars—other than the draw that Star Wars always solicits and the accompanying revenue. Much quieter and away from a lot of children was the temporary exhibit “The Lincolns: Five Generations of an American Family”, which runs through August 4. It’s sad to think that there are no more direct descendants of the man thought to be America’s greatest president. This exhibit is a lot more “folksy” than many you see of the Lincoln family and provides a look into their home life.
Natural History has never been “my thing” so we skipped that floor and went to level two of the museum which reflects the “Cultural History” of Indiana. For me, it was somewhat intimidating as there is so much information on this floor that to walk out without being on visual overload is nigh onto impossible. I was glad to see a picture of William Wells included in the displays (Wells being my favorite historical figure from Allen County) but the Ku Klux Klan display was more than a little disturbing. I realized I had never seen Klan “garb” on display anywhere. But it has inspired me to study the history of the Klan in Indiana a little more thoroughly.
Since coming to work at the History Center a little over three years ago, I’ve seen more reason to feed my addiction to museums because I can then write about them for this blog. I’ve learned a lot—primarily that a museum can no more be all things to all people than any other entity. We all have our likes and dislikes but you will ALWAYS learn something when you visit a museum. What are your favorite museums in this part of the country? Comment and let us know and we’ll feature them in a future blog post.