Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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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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What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: A History of the World in Six Glasses

December 2, 2009

By Kristen Fuhs Wells, communications director at the Indiana Humanities Council.

In A History Of The World In Six Glasses, Tom Standage boldly states that the history of the world can be told using six signature beverages (beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola). These drinks are intricately linked to six major periods in world history–from our nomadic brethren deciding to stay in one place to the current fascination with Coca-Cola.

He goes on to divide history much like archaeologists divide it based on different materials (stone, bronze, iron) only in the form of beverages. But not in a world history textbook kind of way (although I did find myself re-learning bits of world history that I had forgotten over the years). Instead, Standage summarizes great periods of history and concepts into just a few sentences, sprinkles in a few interesting factoids and connects both big picture thoughts and minute details to the development of these beverages, as well as their widespread adoption. Standage explains how these beverages extended life expectancies, fueled the enlightenment, contributed to wars, and divided cultures. For example:

Beer contributed to an increase in farming and decrease in hunting.
Wine divided classes and cultures, particularly in Greece and Rome. 
Spirits influenced slavery, the American Revolution, and contributed to the British Navy’s strength.
Tea improved and sustained life, and it was the “lubricant” for the industrial revolution.
Coffee (and coffeehouses) served as fuel for the enlightenment.
Coca-Cola, love it or hate it, is symbolic of America’s rise in dominance.

Some of those interesting tidbits include that the oldest known recipe is for beer; that Coca-Cola created a clear, un-branded bottle for a leader in the Soviet Union so that he wouldn’t be seen drinking Coke during the Cold War; and that rum significantly contributed to the dominance of the British navy because it kept scurvy at bay.

It’s a brisk read, and offers fascinating insights into our history, and into human nature.

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Meandering Indiana 18 – Lawrence County

November 30, 2009

It was about this time of year, many years ago, when I took my first trip to southern Indiana. The occasion was a visit to my new husband’s hometown of Bedford, Indiana, where he had graduated from the old Bedford High School (before Bedford North Lawrence). A Hoosier boyhood among the quarries was his experience, as in the movie “Breaking Away.” Known as the Land of Limestone, this area of Indiana was the source of building material for the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, and most of Indiana University. Generations of stone cutters and carvers, some from the craft traditions of Italy, worked in that industry.

As the Indiana Humanities Council gears up for its theme program, Food for Thought, let me pause here to note that the Lawrence County Tourism Commission has provided a Dining Guide to the county, as well as other useful information.

Persimmon Pulp

Persimmon Pulp

Speaking of food, Mitchell, another notable town in Lawrence County, has a few claims to fame of its own. First, it’s the home of the Mitchell Persimmon Festival, held annually in September since 1947. My mother-in-law first introduced me to persimmon pudding, a Hoosier treat described as “a baked dessert with a taste similar to pumpkin pie filling but with the texture of gingerbread.” Sure enough, we had some for Thanksgiving this year.

I didn’t get to see much of Lawrence County on my first visit, which we spent hanging out with my husband’s old pals, but since then I’ve enjoyed a number of area attractions. Spring Mill State Park, a popular facility with a delightful inn, a pioneer village, and a memorial to Astronaut Gus Grissom, is a destination near Mitchell. And I have yet to visit Oolitic, but it’s one of my favorite Indiana town names.

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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.

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Meandering Indiana 17 – Adams County

October 26, 2009

For a small county (pop. 34,000), Adams County has a lot of towns, or so it has always seemed to me.

Photo: Berne Chamber of Commerce

Photo: Berne Chamber of Commerce

BERNE – First settled in 1852 by Swiss Mennonites, Berne was named after the capital of Switzerland. A popular place to visit in Berne is the Swiss Heritage Village & Museum. On the grounds of this outdoor museum are a number of nineteenth-century buildings (schoolhouse, church, sawmill), but the one I remember is the Sweitzer Barn. Cleverly designed with an upper story accessible from the rear by going up a bank or ramp, the “bank barn” was popular among Pennsylvania Germans as well as settlers in this area of northeast Indiana. I enjoyed my tour of this impressive structure during planning for the Indiana Humanities Council’s Barn Again! program.

lmb_house

Photo: Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

GENEVA – Indiana author and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter’s Limberlost Cabin is another highlight of Adams County. Now a state historic site, the home was built near the Limberlost Swamp, described as Stratton-Porter’s “playground, laboratory and inspiration.” Here she wrote novels, including Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost, and nature books. While the home may be considered rustic by architects, I thought the interior was polished and beautiful with its updated Arts and Crafts style.

DECATUR – We should not leave Adams County without a brief nod to the town of Decatur, Indiana. Although I’ve missed it in my meandering, it is the county seat and site of the courthouse. No doubt the courthouse will be along the route of the Callithumpian Parade, scheduled for Oct. 26, 2009, although someone besides me will have to explain the origin of this annual Decatur event.

Photo: Derek Jensen

Photo: Derek Jensen

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Sail the ocean blue…or at least search the Resource Connection

October 5, 2009

“In 1492 Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue …” Many of us learned that rhyme as small children or taught it to our children, but few of us have really pondered the relevance of the man behind the “discovery” of the America. To celebrate Columbus Day, (Oct. 12), we traversed the mighty Resource Connection.

The Resource Connection has a lot of great resources to help you learn more about Columbus, including lesson plans from the National Endowment for Humanities and Center for Innovation in Assessment, and a Seeds of Change Garden online exhibit from the Smithsonian Institute that lets you learn more about the types of food the explorers grew.

Check out these resources and find out more about the man behind the nursery rhyme.