The centerpiece of the Indiana State Museum lobby is the “Indiana Obelisk” –at just under fifty feet. the tallest sculpture to date by artist Robert Indiana.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: throughout 2016 my wife and I spotted and compiled a number of sights related to the 200th anniversary of our own Indiana earning statehood, nineteenth in a series of fifty, after Louisiana but before Mississippi, Illinois, and Alabama. Between this year’s State Fair and the one-time Hoosier Homecoming, we had ample opportunities to learn more about our heritage, celebrate the achievers who paved paths for generations ahead, reassert reasons for hometown pride, and transcend that one time Indiana Beach amusement park actually had as its official ad slogan, “There’s More Than Corn in Indiana!” Because once upon a time, that was a thing we had to insist.
Earlier in December we attended one last commemorative event: a temporary exhibit at the Indiana State Museum called “Indiana in 200 Objects” assembling artifacts and souvenirs from Hoosier celebrities, businesses, industries, and moments both famous and infamous. Presented here is just over one-tenth of the available displays — a selection of those that caught our eye, spoke to us on some level, and posed properly for our amateur cameras. Not every sight was a wellspring of unlimited positivity (one could argue for trigger warnings on two of these images for more sensitive souls), but even the darkest relics can illustrate how far we’ve come and help us gauge how much farther we have to go.
You can’t talk about great moments in Hoosier literature without mentioning Kurt Vonnegut, best known for the time-jumping WWII epic Slaughterhouse-Five.
Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery’s 1966 Grammy (Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by Large Group or Soloist with Large Group) for his album Goin’ Out of My Head.
At right, the iconic Coca-Cola glass bottle designed in 1915 by Terre Haute’s Root Glass Co. At left, a giant cartoon Prozac represents one of the more well-known creations of our own Eli Lilly and Company.
Amelia Earhart’s flight jacket. Before her disappearance in 1937, for two years she worked at Purdue University as a consultant for their Department for the Study of Careers for Women (welcome to the 1930s!) and as a technical advisor for their aeronautics department.
This 1891 biography tells the true story of Frances Slocum, a Pennsylvania white girl captured at an early age by the Delaware tribe, who later married into the Miami and would become a chief within their Ohio and Indiana territories.
Guitar once owned and played by Lafayette native Izzy Stradlin, co-founder of Guns N’ Roses.
An 1890 version of the movie-famous Gatling gun, invented by the late Indianapolis resident Richard Gatling.
Jim Davis’ original sketch alongside the final version of his Garfield strip dated August 14, 1980. Davis hails from Muncie, and his Paws, Inc. (founded 1981), remains in business today near the area, thirty-eight years after the cat’s inception.
Sullivan native and Wabash College alumnus Will H. Hays was President Warren Harding’s campaign manager and later the Postmaster General, but he’s best known for his tenure as president of the United States Motion Picture Production Code, through which he would oversee the 1930 implementation of the Hays Code, a rigorous set of content standards for the movie industry as a means of self-censorship to head off several states that were forming their own censorship boards at the time. The Hays Code was rendered obsolete by the late ’60s, but this copy remains as evidence of life before MPAA ratings.
The exhibit devoted one special, underlit nook to the dark side of Indy history, with quasi-trigger-warning signs providing critical context. Exhibit A: a sign from the Peoples Temple, founded and operated by one Jim Jones on Indianapolis’ near-east side from 1956 to 1965, some time before the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana.
Also in that same nook, a reminder of what we really, really prefer to think of as Times Past. Back in the 1920s Indiana had KKK members in high-ranking governmental positions. While I pray that’s no longer the case, this robe was worn by a police chief as late as 1979.
If you’re as old as me, Dick and Jane either helped you learn how to read or insulted your intelligence if you didn’t meet them till years after you’d already figured it out. Their creator Zerna Sharp was born in Hillisburg.
Sheet music for “I’m Just Wild About Harry”, the hit single from the 1921 Broadway musical Shuffle Along, whose music was co-written by Indianapolis composer Noble Sissle. A 2016 Broadway meta-revival brought back the original music and told the story of the making of the first successful all-African-American Broadway production in history.
Indianapolis inventor Willis Vajen designed the Vajen-Bader smoke helmet, vintage 1900s firefighting equipment. Mostly this reminds me of Bioshock.
Actual typewriter once belonging to Pulitzer Prize Winner Ernie Pyle, one of the greatest journalists ever embedded with our troops overseas in World War II. Pyle filed numerous you-are-there reports from the Pacific theater battlefields up until his 1945 death by stray bullet not far from Okinawa.
This 1979 optical printed silk chiffon dress was the work of the Halston, who grew up in Evansville before he went nationwide.
Sweatshirt formerly the property of Notre Dame football legend and coach Knute Rockne, best known to non-sports fans as the subject of a film costarring Ronald Reagan and containing the catchphrase ‘Win one for the Gipper!”
Also combining sports clothing and movies: the jacket of Bobby Plump, whose high school basketball team was the basis for the Gene Hackman movie Hoosiers, which to much of the local population is basically the Greatest Sports Film of All Times.
Indianapolis Star political cartoonist Johnny Gruelle cemented his pop-culture legacy with the creation of kiddie-book characters Raggedy Ann and Andy (ca. 1900-1915), famous dolls that your grandparents might recognize.
Once upon a time this was the topper on the Washington National Cathedral in DC, made from Indiana limestone.
Stained-glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany designed this 1902 piece using materials provided by the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Works.
…and to cap off our festivities sans photos, for Christmas I got my wife a themed gift basket of snacks made by some of the best companies around town. And for the snarky kids in the back row, no, it wasn’t just a big basket of corn and antidepressants.
This gallery effectively concludes MCC’s Indiana Bicentennial experience, unless something really awesome and relevant is pitched our way in the next three days. To learn more about the Indiana Bicentennial, check out the links below or visit your local library and then shame them for not having a dedicated Indiana section. Thanks for reading!
The Indiana State Fair 2016 Quadrilogy:
Part 1: Our Year in Food
Part 2: Parkour!
Part 3: The Bicentennial Bison
Part 4: The Best of the Rest
The Hoosier Homecoming/Indiana Bicentennial Sextet:
Part 1: Adventures in Local Government
Part 2: The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay Finale
Part 3: Bicentennial Cosplay!
Part 4: Notes from the Office of the Governor of Indiana
Part 5: The Art of the Indiana State House
Part 6: The Indiana Bicentennial Bonus Bric-a-Brac Bonanza