Indiana State Museum – Indianapolis

The earliest Indiana State Museum consisted of the small geological collection of the state librarian, R. Deloss Brown, and miscellaneous items added during the Civil War. From one organized and labeled cabinet in 1862, the collection continued to grow and was moved to the third floor of the State Capitol. By 1889, however, it was transferred to the basement where it remained for almost 45 years, seldom visited, and closed on two occasions. However, in 1945, Governor Ralph Gates took preliminary steps to building a proper state museum by hiring a few knowledgeable employees. The ground for the building was donated by noted philanthropist Eli Lilly, but the monumental construction costs of such a venture forced the abandonment of the idea. It was not until 1962 that Indiana’s Governor Welsh seized the opportunity to renovate the vacant City Hall to house the Museum for $830,000, a far more reasonable price than the earlier proposed cost of $3,500,000. The Indiana State Museum, with four floors and a basement for storage and preservation, opened to the public in 1967. As collections increased and accreditation was received, a larger building in a better location was needed. Ground was broken at the White River State Park in 1999, and on May 22, 2002, the present-day facility opened at 650 W. Washington Street to the first 5,000 visitors.

The Museum is constructed entirely with Indiana materials of limestone, sandstone, steel, brick, aluminum, and glass. The exterior, designed by Indiana sculptors, David Jemerson Young and Jeff Laramore of 2nd Globe Sculptures, along with 20 other artisans, is an exhibit in itself. The 92-county walk of their design incorporates all 92 counties in Indiana through an original sculpture for each. These sculptures are embedded in the walls, the sidewalks, and the stair rails, with each one depicting the cultural and historical significance of the individual county. Outside the Museum on the sidewalk along the Canal stands the 17-foot Steam Clock, designed by Mike Runyan of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The eight brass whistles chime a few notes every 15 minutes and play the entire melody of “Back Home In Indiana” on the hour.

The Museum houses extensive collections of art, science, history, agriculture, geology, industry, and technology dating from the prehistoric ages to the present day. It provides the residents of the community and visitors to the area with a wealth of learning and entertainment through meaningful permanent and traveling exhibits, programs, and events. Demonstrations of Native American culture and ecology are held in the Governor Frank O’Bannon Great Hall, and Discovery Carts, staffed with curators and subject-matter experts, are located throughout the Museum. The Americana is an outstanding collection of over 10,000 objects from the Civil War through WWII, reflecting the historical significance of contributions made by individuals, events, and trends in Indiana.

Children and adults delight in the Museum’s official greeter, Burro, a Steiff riding mohair burro that was given to the Museum in 2001 by the Isler family. Burro resides in his own Treasure Case as a permanent fixture, but often emerges for TV filming and viewing by the public in the lobby near the ticket window. Within the Museum, visitors can explore The Hoosier Heritage Trail, a database of ten stations, and either print out the information that is of interest to them or save it in a personal electronic folder to be viewed later. There are numerous changing displays of science, art, and history in the Ford Gallery, NiSource Gallery, and Changing Galleries. Other collections include paintings, space exhibits, and Daniel Gawlowski’s photographic portrayal of the African American community of Muncie, Indiana in the Legacy Theater. The Theater features several performance areas from a front porch to church pews where the Legacy Theater Troupe portray historical figures from the African American community. Live 20-minute performances, appropriate for all age groups, are held Wednesday through Sunday, several times a day.

The Museum is sponsoring a number of upcoming events this year including the artifacts and items of clothing worn by Saint Mother Guerin, representing the Sisters of Providence and the founding of the first women’s Catholic liberal arts college, the Academy of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods. This extensive exhibit will be displayed on the 2nd floor in the Hoosier Way Gallery in October. Biotown USA, an overview of energy production with renewable resources reflecting the progress and success of Reynolds, Indiana, will be featured in a June 2007 display. The 3rd floor of the Museum will include a display of children’s art, Symphony in Color. The holiday season at the Museum opens with Celebration Crossing and the Santa Claus Express, in addition to arts and crafts for the children, and photos and breakfast with Santa. Other recurring annual events held at the Museum include the Indiana Art Fair, the Summer Solstice celebration, the Canal Family Fest on July 4th, the Day of the Dead celebration, and the Geo Fest fossil and mineral show in October. Summer day camps are available at the Museum for reasonable fees, with before and after care provided for children of working families

Hours: Monday — Saturday, 9:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m., Sunday, 11:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m. (Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day, early closing at 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.)

Admission: Adults – $7.00, Seniors – $6.50. Children (3-12) – $4.00. Reduced prices and special rates for school and homeschool groups of 20 or more; Museum members free. Combo theater and museum ticket prices available.
(Note: IMAX Theater at Museum location; admission and hours are different.)

Parking: Underground parking garage at the White River State Park, $3.00 with museum or theater ticket purchase. Handicap assistance available and wheelchair accessible. Strollers for rent.

Restaurants in the Museum: Canal Café & Terrace – informal dining, open Monday — Saturday, 10:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m., & Sunday 11:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m.
L.S. Ayres Tea Room, open 7 days a week, 11:00 a.m. — 2:30 p.m. Families can enjoy afternoon tea, Sunday 2:00 p.m. — 4:30 p.m., adults – $9.95, children – $3.95.
(Both dining facilities are accessible with no museum fee required.)

Gift Shop: Open Monday — Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sunday 12 Noon — 5:00 p.m.

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