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Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites preserves, interprets and presents material evidence of Indiana’s cultural and natural history in a context that encourages people to actively participate in discovering the world—as it was, as it is, and as it can be. The museum displays permanent collections that tell Indiana’s story and celebrate the state’s achievements; features a dynamic schedule of changing exhibitions; performs critical research and preservation of artifacts; and offers extensive public and educational programming. From its central location in downtown Indianapolis, the Indiana State Museum presents the Indiana experience in its wider national and global context.

The Indiana State Museum began in 1869 as a diverse collection of artifacts, natural history specimens, and Civil War memorabilia housed in various locations including the State House and the old City Hall. A new, 270,000 square foot museum facility and IMAX Theater opened in White River State Park in 2002. Constructed of Indiana limestone, sandstone, steel, brick and glass, the museum has 75,000 square feet of exhibition space, including a multi-level core exhibition featuring the permanent collection and four temporary exhibition galleries. From the soaring Governor Frank O’Bannon Grand Lobby showcasing Robert Indiana’s INDIANA obelisk to the 92 pieces of sculpture in the building’s façade representing each of the state’s counties, the building itself is a work of art.

The Indiana State Museum holds a collection of more than 500,000 items relating to Indiana art, history, archaeology, science and culture. In its collection and programs, the museum takes an interdisciplinary approach that recognizes how history, science, art, and culture are intertwined. The museum’s holdings are diverse, with numerous centers of excellence. These include Ice Age mammals; business and technology (including the RCA Collection with working models of the first color television); Indiana art, from the territorial period through the Impressionist Hoosier School to contemporary work; and quilts, including the Pottinger Collection, one of the best documented collections of Amish quilts in existence.

Recent acquisitions include the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, the largest gift ever received by the museum. This collection includes signed copies of both the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment; more than 350 other documents signed by Lincoln; Alexander Gardner’s studio chair in which Lincoln sat for some of his most famous portraits; the Lincoln family’s personal photographs; an enormous collection of rare papers, books, and pamphlets; fine art including the last portrait of Lincoln before his death; and objects that belonged to the Lincoln family and their associates. The museum is working in partnership with the Allen County Public Library to make this remarkable collection as accessible as possible. Other recent additions to the collection include the Lacer Collection of more than 50,000 artifacts from the ancient Hopewell culture in southwestern Indiana and the Dresslar Collection, relating to Indiana when it was America’s western frontier. The Dresslar Collection features artifacts that belonged to the Boone family, Maconaquah, Francesco Vigo, and others.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jay Denney
CC BY-ND 2.0

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650 West Washington St.
Indianapolis, Indiana
United States

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