Archive for the ‘Indiana’ Category

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What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Book Club Choices

January 20, 2010

What are book clubs requesting from the Indiana Humanities Council’s collection? The Council makes sets of 8-25 copies of each title available to reading groups at public libraries, senior centers, and other venues, free of charge.

The following titles were requested most often in 2009. They reflect, it seems to me, the power of books to transport the reader to another time and place. Moreover, these are books that give depth and dimension to a topic for the group to think about and talk about, whether it be a moral dilemma or an occasion for reminiscing.

Historical Fiction:
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak – a recent novel, set in Hitler’s Germany
Follow the River by James Alexander Thom – a true story about a woman’s journey through the wilderness to escape Inidan captivity in the pre-revolutionary Ohio River Valley
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara – a fictionalized account of the Battle of Gettysburg
Riders of the Purple Sage – Zane Grey’s best-known novel depicting the Old West

Biography/Memoirs/Nonfiction:
First Ladies: An Intimate Group Portrait of White House Wives – portraits of several American First Ladies, from Martha Washington to Hillary Clinton, written by Margaret Truman, daughter of a President
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel – a young girlhood in Henry County, Indiana
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin – inspiring account of an American who repaid a kindness by leading an effort to build schools in impoverished villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Indiana Authors:
Freckles – one of Gene Stratton-Porter’s novels set in the Limberlost Swamp
Home to Harmony – Philip Gulley’s humorous series about a mythical Indiana town and its long-suffering Quaker pastor
In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash – Hoosier Jean Shepherd’s book, which became material for the film, “A Christmas Story”
(Haven Kimmel and James Alexander Thom are also Indiana authors.)

General Fiction:
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon – first of a nostalgic series set in small town North Carolina
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – a beloved children’s classic
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns – small town Georgia at the beginning of the 20th century
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines – a story of prejudice, injustice, and humanity set on a Louisiana plantation
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – celebrated coming-of-age novel about society and racial inequality in the Deep South

Immigrants (an Indiana Humanities Council theme program):
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – a young girl’s view of her Chicago barrio
My Antonia by Willa Cather – classic novel of a Bohemian immigrant family in 19th-century Nebraska
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – contemporary novel about a professional family from India
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson – Japanese-Americans in Washington State and conflict in the wake of WWII

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Meandering Indiana 19 – Tippecanoe County

December 25, 2009

Downtown Skyline of Lafayette, Indiana

Today it’s time for a visit to Tippecanoe County, where I first touched down in Indiana. On my first visit to the state, I was so ignorant of its geography that I booked a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago to West Lafayette. The little plane (maybe a dozen passengers) flew so low that we navigated by following the highway from Chicago to the Purdue airport, which apparently no longer has commercial airline service.

Another puzzler for me when I first got there was the way people with expensive homes (deans and the like) were extremely proud of living on ravines. What is this thing with ravines? I wondered. Well, situated in the northern, glacier-flattened half of Indiana, Tippecanoe County does not have a lot of interesting terrain. Ravines are about it.

Tippecanoe is a word that many school children would recognize because of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” Few campaign slogans are remembered 170 years later, but that tribute to William Henry Harrison has a pleasing rhythm to it. Should any student wish to learn more about Harrison and the Battle of Tippecanoe, there is always the redoubtable Ginger Smith’s Fourth Grade Class website, created by the students of Battle Ground Elementary School.

Battle Ground is also the site of Historic Prophetstown in Prophetstown State Park, with its 1920s Farmstead, now offering farm produce.  Located south of the town is the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum, a site run by the Tippecanoe County Historical Association. The association also oversees the Fort Ouiatenon Blockhouse and the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon. In Lafayette, the Association runs the Moses Fowler House and the Frank Arganbright Genealogy and Research Center, 1001 South Street. Conveniently located across the street is the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette. Over the years all of these organizations have partnered with the Indiana Humanities Council on numerous projects, as have the Tippecanoe County and West Lafayette Public Libraries.

You can find a lot of information about these venues and more on the website of the Lafayette-West Lafayette Convention & Visitors Bureau, homeofpurdue.com. Purdue? Oh, yes, Purdue. That brings me back to my first experience in Indiana, which was at Purdue. There I met my husband, Joel, and, 36 years later, I’m not sure whether to praise or blame the university. But, in this season of joy, let us be charitable. Kudos to Tippecanoe County!

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Celebrate Indiana’s Statehood on Dec. 11

December 3, 2009

By Ray E. Boomhower, senior editor of the Indiana Historical Society Press

December 11 marks the 193rd anniversary of Indiana’s entry into the Union as the nineteenth state. The occasion will be marked by ceremonies at the Indiana Statehouse and the usual pomp and circumstance. The thoughts of those who attend the event may turn to seven years from now, when the Hoosier State celebrates its bicentennial. How will such an anniversary be commemorated? For ideas, perhaps we should go back to how the state celebrated its centennial in 1916.

The fall of 1914 was a bloody one in Europe. The British and German were winding down the First Battle of Ypres and would soon dig in to begin the long and futile period of trench warfare. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, however, it was an election year. On November 3, Hoosiers trooped to the polls and “for a time the war dropped into the background as all Indiana played the election game,” wrote Cedric C. Cummins in his book on public opinion during World War I.

In addition to the usual candidates on the ballot, voters had the chance to register their opinions on two special issues: a convention to alter the state’s constitution and whether to celebrate the state’s centennial in 1916 by appropriating two million dollars for the construction of a memorial building to house the state library and other historical agencies. Both measures suffered defeat at the polls.

Democratic governor Samuel M. Ralston, who would become a leading force behind the state’s eventual centennial observance, believed the memorial plan was rejected not because Hoosiers were against celebrating the event, but because they objected to the amount of money sought for the building.

Ralston was proven right; in just two years, backed by the efforts of the Indiana Historical Commission and thousands of volunteers, Indiana residents would see the creation of state parks, the beginnings of an improved statewide road system, the creation of permanent memorials in numerous communities, and an overall awakening of interest in the nineteenth state’s history.

At Governor Ralston’s request, the 1915 Indiana General Assembly agreed to appropriate $25,000 and create a nine-member Indiana Historical Commission to promote the centennial celebration. The legislature’s financial support of the commission marked the first notable state commitment of funds to history in Indiana. Of the $25,000, $20,000 was earmarked for the promotion of centennial activities, while the remaining amount went to collecting, editing, and publishing Indiana’s past.

The Indiana Historical Commission first met on April 23 and 24, 1915, in Governor Ralston’s Statehouse office. An illustrious group joined Ralston on the commission, including James Woodburn of Indiana University, Reverend John Cavanaugh of the University of Notre Dame, and Charity Dye, an Indianapolis schoolteacher. The commission employed Professor Walter C. Woodward of Earlham College to direct the centennial celebration.

The commission set out to educate the state’s citizens about the centennial. Special bulletins were sent to county school superintendents asking for their cooperation; direct appeals were made to teachers in the summer and fall of 1915; a weekly Indiana Historical Commission newsletter began publication; and commission members addressed various clubs, civic organizations, churches, and historical societies (Dye alone gave 152 talks).

The Indiana Historical Commission also turned to film to get its message across to the public. Realizing it had neither the necessary funds nor skills needed to undertake such an enterprise, the commission called upon the public for help. Citizens soon responded by forming the Inter-State Historical Pictures Corporation, which contracted with the Selig Polyscope Company of Chicago to produce a movie titled Indiana. The seven-reel picture featured famed poet James Whitcomb Riley telling the story of the state’s development to a group of children.

To encourage former Indiana residents to return to the state for the centennial, the commission used the services of noted humorist and author George Ade. Honored, or “burdened,” Ade joked in speeches touting the centennial, with the chairmanship of the committee to “sound the call and bring all the wandering Hoosiers back into the fold,” he set about recruiting contributions from a veritable who’s who of Hoosiers for a book.

Titled An Invitation to You and Your Folks from Jim and Some More of the Home Folks, the book, published by Bobbs-Merrill Company of Indianapolis, contained messages from Governor Ralston, Vice President Thomas Marshall, Meredith Nicholson, and Booth Tarkington. Gene Stratton-Porter contributed the poem “A Limberlost Invitation,” and Riley the poem “The Hoosier in Exile.”

With the publicity campaign on its way to being a success, the commission had to turn its sights to how best to state the actual celebration; keeping in mind the lack of funds, it was clear that such events would have to be financed locally. The Indiana Historical Commission turned to staging historical pageants. These dramas appealed strongly to the commission because they could both focus attention on Indiana’s history and bring communities together.

The commission hired William Chauncy Langdon, former first president of the American Pageant Association, as the state pageant master. Langdon’s main duties were to write and direct three pageants, one at Indiana University, another at the old state capital of Corydon, and a final one at Indianapolis. Historical studies were made, music was especially composed, and costumes were designed “for the sole purpose of producing in the sequence of its various scenes a clear, beautiful and inspiring drama and a truthful impression of the development of the State of Indiana,” noted Langdon.

These same ideas were used by local communities in developing their own pageants. The commission gave what help it could, securing centennial chairmen in all but three of Indiana’s counties, with each responsible for selecting a county committee to plan the work. The plan worked. Director Woodward reported that forty-five county or local pageants presented in 1916 were seen by an estimated 250,000 people, and anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 Hoosiers participated in the performances.

Most counties used incidents from their past as the basis for the pageants. Miami County, for example, used the story of Frances Slocum, who was abducted at the age of five from her home in Pennsylvania by Delaware Indians. She was discovered by her family fifty years later in Miami County, Indiana, the wife of an Indian chief. Titled “Ma-con-a-quah,” the pageant opened with the following:

            Miami! What wealth of history

            This name suggests! Here in years

            A hundred past and more,

            The red forebears of your possessions

            Roamed the virgin wood, and called it Home.

            Here, in primal glory, ere white man’s craft

            Had fashioned this, your city, lived we, the Miamis.

Along with the week-long pageant in Indianapolis, capital residents had the chance to hear from President Woodrow Wilson as part of activities for Centennial Highway Day on October 12, 1916. Invited to speak by Governor Ralston, a vigorous supporter of roadway improvements, Wilson arrived in the city by presidential train (which was late). While in Indianapolis, the president reviewed an automobile parade before delivering a speech on the need for good roads to 10,000 people at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

Perhaps the commission’s crowning achievement came with the development of Indiana’s first state parks. The movement began in April 1915 when Governor Ralston received a letter from Juliet V. Strauss, a nationally known writer living in Rockville, Indiana, appealing for help in saving the Turkey Run area in Parke County from being sold to timber interests. The commission created a special parks committee with Richard Lieber, who would become the first director of the Indiana Department of Conservation, as chairman.

While talks for purchasing the Turkey Run property for the state were under way, the commission learned of the opportunity to purchase the rugged area of McCormick’s Creek in Owen County. A total of $5,250 was raised, one-fourth of which by Owen County residents, and McCormick’s Creek became Indiana’s first state park. The commission later acquired the Turkey Run property.

When the last notes of music from the various pageants faded away and celebrants packed their costumes, the commission attempted to take advantage of the new opportunities presented by the centennial observance. Although a 1917 bill calling for the establishment of a permanent state agency for history failed, the commission was resurrected following World War I to organize a county-by-county war history. Since that time, Indiana has consistently funded a state historical agency.

The commission’s spirit is today kept alive by the activities of the Indiana Historical Bureau, but few may know of the lasting legacy of the nine-member body that pushed and prodded the state to at last take a real interest in its own past.

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The humanities: It’s not about what they are; it’s what we do

November 16, 2009

Due to an overwelmingly positive response, we wanted to share the following article with you, which was published in a variety of newspapers throughout Indiana, including the Indianapolis Star on Nov. 4, under the headline “Get in touch with the humanities.”

By Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of the Indiana Humanities Council. 

Once, after a dance performance, Isadora Duncan was asked what the dance meant. Her response has become famous as a terse description of art’s purpose: “If I could tell you what it meant,” she said, “there would be no point in dancing it.”

In my role as president and CEO of the Indiana Humanities Council, I often find myself being asked, “What are the humanities?” And sometimes, like Isadora Duncan, I think it’d be easier to dance than answer the question.

Why? Because sometimes describing the humanities is like describing the wind – it’s easier to say what it does than what it is. It swirls leaves on an autumn sidewalk. It teases a little girl’s hair. It pulses through a wheat field like waves on a landlocked sea.

So, I thought I’d explain what the humanities are by explaining what you can do – and perhaps already do – in, through and with them every day.

I don’t pretend that this list is conclusive; I know it only scratches the surface. But I hope that it will, in its breadth and diversity, allow you to create – and, more important, put into action – your own definition of the humanities. So, let’s get started:

Read a novel. Read a poem. Read the directions on a shampoo bottle. Read the Declaration of Independence. Read a blog. Read an essay. Read a review of a book you’ll never read. Read a sacred text. Read your diary. Read to a kid. Read the liner notes to an old jazz album. Read the lyrics to a song you love. Read a libretto.

See a play with a friend. Go early. Wander through the theater. View the stage from different angles. Peruse the program. Learn about the actors. Watch the play. Study the set. Notice the lighting. Listen to reactions. Find a place to have coffee. Discuss the play. Go to another play. Repeat the process.

Visit a courtroom. Visit a classroom. Visit an old teacher. Visit a park. Visit a museum. Visit a library. Visit City Hall. Visit a college campus. Visit a craftsman’s workbench. Visit an artist’s studio.

Look at a piece of art. Study it. Step back. Look at the piece beside it. Ask yourself: Why are these pieces next to each other? Why is this art? Step back again. Ask yourself: Does the size of the room affect the way I look at the art? Step back again. How does seeing more change the way you see the art?

Listen to a band. Listen to a debate. Listen to a well-tuned machine. Listen to a podcast. Listen to a diner ordering dinner. Listen to a photographer describing a photo. Listen to an architect explaining a building’s design. 

Stop outside a building you pass every day; look at its design. Do you know the name for the architectural style? Do you like it? What appeals to you? What would you do differently? Get a book about architecture and learn about the style. Find other examples of that style and compare them. Find examples of other styles and compare them. Take a walk with a colleague and debate the architecture you see.

Attend a historic-home tour. Attend a lecture. Attend the symphony. Attend a gallery reception. Attend a festival. Attend a legislative session. Attend opening night (of anything). Attend a public forum.

Speak at a public forum. Sing in a choir. Yell “Bravo” at a concert. Ask a question. Tell someone your family’s history. Recite a poem. Describe a work of art. Say what you think.

Now, think about what you’ve done. You’ve examined, studied and reviewed something made by humans or something that makes us human. You’ve thought about it, pondered it and processed it. And you’ve talked about it, debated it and discussed it.

That’s what the humanities are.