TERRE HAUTE —
Even if you don’t have a mystical Egyptian tablet that brings museum inhabitants to life at sunset like character Larry Daley in the “Night in the Museum” movies, history can come alive for you, your friends and family at the many museums in the Wabash Valley.
It could be Stiffy Green, the nationally famous and reportedly loyal bulldog, said to haunt Highland Cemetery in Terre Haute, who captures your interest as he sits beside his owners’ mausoleum replica.
It could be the development of the Coca-Cola bottle with its distinctive curves — one of the few packages ever granted a trademark — created by the one-time Terre Haute Root Glass Co. in 1915 that fascinates you.
Or it could be the men and women of the railroad industry and the tribute paid to them for their past, current and future contributions locally and nationally.
Or the ghastly Holocaust experience that actual survivors share on a daily basis that draws you to the past and helps to shape the future.
Whatever your interest, the Wabash Valley abounds with remnants and pieces of our local and global past. And at little cost or no admission fees at all, a weekend at the local museums makes a perfect stay-vacation.
Our 28th President, Woodrow Wilson is quoted as saying that “A nation which does not know what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do.”
All of the local museums display artistic, historical and scientific objects that testify to our local and national past and help us realize where we have been yesterdays and yesteryears ago. Several museum officials testify that the exhibits make history come alive much more than reading from a book. So get started searching for your past.
Vigo County Historical Museum
The Vigo County Historical Museum, 1411 S. Sixth St., has a mission to collect, preserve and share Vigo County’s past and how it relates to all parts of the country, Assistant Director Barbara Carney said.
Along with the famous Stiffy Green and Coca-Cola bottle displays, another major drawing card to this museum is the Military Room, Carney said.
There are items and clothing from the Revolutionary War through the Korean War — all pertaining to the Wabash Valley and yet tying into the country’s history as well, she said.
“You can actually see what took place throughout the country at certain times,” she said. “Our mission is to collect and preserve and share Vigo County’s past and how it relates to all parts of the country,” she added.
Hours for the Vigo County Historical Museum are 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. There is no entrance charge but a donation box is displayed and contributions are appreciated.
For more information, contact the museum at (812) 235-9717 or visit terrehaute.com/vigo-county-
At the CANDLES Holocaust Museum, 1532 S. Third St., three docents are on hand to answer questions and share their Holocaust experiences. CANDLES Program Director Ben Madeska said there are few museums in the region that offer what is in our backyard at the CANDLES museum.
The docents include Mickey Kor, a four-year survivor of Nazi ghettos and camps; Eva Kor, founder of CANDLES and survivor of Dr. Josef Mengele’s medical experiments on twins at Auschwitz; and Walter Sommers who witnessed the rise of Hitler and Kristallnacht. He escaped to the United States with his family in 1939.
“It is so important to learn about the Holocaust from those who lived it — it makes it real for people in a way that a history book just can’t,” Madeska said. “And we must remember it so it will never happen again.”
The purpose of the museum is two-fold, Madeska said. One is to make certain genocide never happens again in our world; the second is to prevent hate crimes locally.
Hours for the CANDLES museum are 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. There is no cost to tour the museum but docent guided tours are $5 per person.
For more information, contact the CANDLES museum at (812) 234-7881 or visit www.candlesholocaustmuse
Swope Art Museum
Located at 25 S. Seventh St. is the Sheldon Swope Art Museum. Approximately 2,000 works are on display in this museum that collects, preserves and displays the best of American art with special emphasis on painting and sculpture of the first half of the 20th century and on Wabash Valley artists.
Swope Director Marianne Richter said the museum is the envy of larger cities because of its first-rate collections. She calls the Swope “A real jewel in the Wabash Valley.” In November 2010 USA Today named the Swope one of 10 great places to see art in smaller cities.
At the Swope you will find works by Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Venton, Edward Hopper, Charles Burchfield and Zoltan Sepeshy, to name a few of the artists from the first half of the 20th century.
Those displays have been enlarged to include artists from the second half of the 20th Century like Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell, Robert Indiana and Eva Hesse. One gallery is devoted solely to Indiana artists.
A new display called “Reflecting Terre Haute” is showing through March 10 and will feature historic works from the Swope collection as well as submitted works from contemporary artists whose works interpret our community, Richter said.
Hours for the Swope are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. There is no admission fee.
For more information, contact the museum at (812) 238-1676 or visit www.swopeart
The Terre Haute Children’s Museum, a fun place for young and old, has more than doubled in size since its beginning in 1988 and has claimed to have educated more than 230,000 adults and children from more than 22 counties in Indiana and Illinois.
The museum, located in downtown Terre Haute at 727 Wabash Ave., in its new quarters, has been the recipient of National Science Foundation Funding. It also participates in a national consortium of 14 science and technology museums.
Officials say the Terre Haute Children’s Museum strives to enrich children’s lives through exploration of science and technology. Its vision is to create a fun, dynamic science and technology learning environment of the highest quality, which serves as a point of community pride.
Cost is $7 for adults and children ages 2 and up. There is no cost for children under 24 months to attend.
For more information, call the museum at (812) 235-5548 or visit thchil
There are several other local museums dedicated to the history of a specific person, company or topic that shaped our community and world as we know it. They include:
n The Clabber Girl Museum: You can experience the history of Clabber Girl baking powder and other Clabber Girl products. Clabber Girl is one of the oldest brand names in the country and has remained a stellar name through the centuries in home baking. It is located at 900 Wabash Ave. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (812) 232-9446 or go to www.clabber
n The Wabash Valley Railroader’s Museum, located at 1316 Plum St.. in Terre Haute is dedicated to preserving the railroad history of the greater Wabash Valley. This museum features two functional railroad interlocking towers, an 1899 Vandalia railroad depot, a Pennsylvania Railroad cabin car and a train-viewing platform. The museum opens in May and hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admittance cost is $3 for adults; children 2-12 years old, $2, and no charge for those under age 2.
For more information, call (812) 238-9958 or check out www.wvrrm.org.
n The Eugene V Debs Museum located at 451 N. Eighth St. in Terre Haute is the actual 1890 homeplace for Debs, a famous labor leader, socialist presidential candidate and human rights advocate. This museum is open from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment. Admission is free. For more information, call (812) 232-2163 or visit www.debsfoun
n The Paul Dresser Museum, located in his pre-Civil War home in Terre Haute, holds historical items of the famous composer of Indiana’s state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash.” This museum is located at First Street and Dresser Drive in Fairbanks Park. It is open limited hours during the summer and by appointment. Admission is free.
For more information, call the museum at (812) 235-9717 or visit terrehaute.com/paul-dresser-
n You can find a Fire-Police Museum at Eighth and Idaho streets in Terre Haute. This museum features the first motorized firetruck used in Indiana, a fire pole, an operational fire alarm system as well as other exhibits of police and fire equipment of bygone days from 1910 through 1940s, including Terre Haute’s first horse-drawn ambulance that was operated by the Police Department in 1885. This museum is open 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays, May 1 through Sept. 15. Admission is free and special tours are available.
For more information, call (812) 235-9865 or (812) 234-0233 or visit www.terre
n You can learn about the first inhabitants of the United States and the Wabash Valley at the Native American Museum located at 5170 E. Poplar Drive, in Dobbs Park in Terre Haute. Exhibits here include their culture, education, heirloom and wildflower gardens and much more. This museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
For more information, contact the museum at (812) 877-6007 or visit www.terre