INDIANAPOLIS — A book, a letter jacket, a spoon wrapped around a tree branch.
Indiana’s history is laid out in artifacts — 200 of them — as part of a new exhibit at the Indiana State Museum.
Indiana in 200 Objects celebrates the Hoosier bicentennial, the 200th anniversary of statehood.
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The exhibit, open through next year, is a thematic multimedia exhibit that retells the Indiana story through objects, narrative and video. Divided into themes, the exhibit captures all aspects of Hoosier history from prehistoric times through modern technological advances with Indiana connections.
For longtime Hoosiers, this extensive exhibit might be a trip down memory lane, featuring such items as a 1907 children’s book of James Whitcomb Riley’s “The Raggedy Man,” Bobby Plump’s 1954 Milan High School basketball warm-up jacket and a spoon found wrapped around a tree limb after the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes.
Selecting the objects for the exhibit from the museum’s thousands of artifacts was a challenge for Dale Ogden, chief curator of cultural history for the museum. He assembled a 12-member team that included curators from cultural history, natural history and fine art, as well as Susannah Koerber, vice president of collections and interpretation.
The staff organized the objects thematically rather than chronologically so that unlike objects could be mixed and matched to teach Indiana history in a unique way.
“It’s not the 200 most important or 200 best in our collection or 200 icons we could get our hands on,” Ogden said. “It’s 200 objects the staff identified that tell the story of Indiana’s history in an imaginative, informative and entertaining fashion.”
Indiana in 200 Objects is also a history lesson. Did you ever wonder why there was a buffalo on the Indiana state seal? A majestic stuffed buffalo reminds us that bison were prominent in Indiana through 1830. Also on display is the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, which transferred control of the land that became Indiana from the Native Americans to the United States.
Creative Indiana is represented with the sheet music for Indiana’s state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash,” written by Paul Dresser. Also present is a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Slaughterhouse Five,” a print of Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE painting, the guitar played by Guns N’ Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin, a jacket worn by Indiana rocker John Mellencamp and comic strips drawn by “Garfield” creator Jim Davis.
The darker side of Indiana history also is on view with a large photo of Jim Jones and the nameplate from his Peoples Temple. Jones, a self-described prophet, left Indiana with his congregation and eventually settled in Guyana, where he led 900 followers in a mass suicide.
An eye-catching red Ku Klux Klan robe was worn for the last time by the Huntingburg chief of police in 1979. Also on display is the 1907 Indiana House Bill 364, which called for mandatory sterilization of “confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists.”
Amelia Earhart’s flight jacket is part of the exhibit, reminding visitors that although she was an internationally know aviatrix, she attended college at Purdue.
Of the 200 objects in the exhibit, 140 came from within the museum’s collection of artifacts. Others came from the Indiana Historical Society, the U.S. National Archives, the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and private collections.
Other highlights include:
A drinking flask used by John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, as he traveled across Indiana planting apple trees.
An electric chair used by the Indiana Department of Correction from 1913 to 1994 that was constructed from parts of Indiana’s original hangman’s scaffold.
A television commercial for the Hop-Rod, a gasoline-powered pogo stick, invented by Hoosier Gordon Spitzmesser in 1960.
It’s hard for Ogden to settle on a favorite; among them are the mastodon skeleton, an edited draft of John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” and a pair a Chuck Taylor’s Converse All-Star shoes.
“There are about 190 more,” Ogden said.
What: The Indiana State Museum’s Indiana in 200 Object exhibit
Where: Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St.
When: The exhibit is on display through Jan. 29, 2017
Cost: Admission to the museum is $13 for adults and discounted for seniors, students and children
Info: For more information, visit indianamuseum.org