Saturday, May 31, 2008

New Field Trips Prompts a Series of Programs


For the first time, almost every second, third, and fourth grade student in Crawfordsville visited the Museum this year, along with students from throughout the county and region. To accommodate this influx of students - who we hope will return next year - we introduced a series of topical tours catered to the learning standards of each grade. The second graders learned about Lew Wallace as an author, and returned to write stories on the grounds like Wallace did with his world-renowned book Ben-Hur. The third graders focused on local history and what Wallace did while he lived in Crawfordsville, as well as what makes the Study a unique building unlike any they'll see elsewhere. The fourth graders looked at what made Wallace important to the state of Indiana: his fame as an author, diplomat, and soldier. All these students got to look at the Study and Museum, but with a different focus for each group, there will be something new to see the next time they come.



Reasons to Visit and Volunteer at the Study

Hello, I am a volunteer here at the Lew Wallace Study. Approximately one year ago I sought out opportunities to help my community and for those opportunities to be interesting, challenging, and not boring. As a volunteer I work on the newsletter, give tours, and research information upon request from the public regarding Lew's fascinating life. I enjoy these opportunities as it is a vast change from my daily job and additionally I am providing a public service to promote a national treasure.

When I was a small child, my grandmother took me to the study. Many years later I returned to tour the study as a college student. As a child, I was fascinated by the exhibits from the film version of Ben Hur (1959), as the suit of the Roman Legionnaire caught my eye. However, after studying literature and studying history in college, I returned and fell in love with the artifact collection on Lew's life as an author, general, ambassador, and sportsman. It was the memories of both tours plus reading the novel Ben Hur that inspired me to volunteer at this study. Now I take the opportunity to inspire others to study Lew Wallace and appreciate him for his incredible life and the study itself.

When you visit the study, each tour begins with a brief video presentation of Lew's biography. In the film, Lew Wallace is described as a hero for modern times. It makes sense - a best-selling author who followed his true calling in the literary arts after practicing law; a general who volunteered for the Union army leaving his family (wife Susan, son Henry) for the front lines of the Civil War like many men in that era; a foreign ambassador in the infancy of American international diplomacy; a territorial governor sent to clean up New Mexico during the period of William Bonney a/k/a Billy The Kid; and a "gentleman scientist" whose innovations range from a telescoping fishing pole to making a railroad safe for passengers in the late 19th century. He embodies more the Renaissance man of the late middle ages than the Victorian Era in which he lived and thrived. This is a fascinating man who can teach all of us the themes of perseverance and hard work.

Since starting my volunteer work here, I have learned much more about Lew than I ever imagined. I'm now inspired to read his two-volume biography published posthumously and The Fair God, Lew's first novel about the conquest of the Aztec empire by Cortez from the Aztec perspective. He produced a pronunciation guide for the Aztec characters, which some critics disliked at that time. I'm also interested in reading The Land of the Pueblos, a collection of articles produced by Susan, Lew's wife, during their time in New Mexico.

There is an aspect for every visitor at the study. If you enjoy literature, you will enjoy browsing at Lew's collection of books and the monument for the Ben Hur beech tree (90% of the novel was written under the tree). If you enjoy science, you will enjoy our current exhibit complete with a recreation of a Victorian workbench. If you enjoy the Civil War, you will enjoy the study's exhibits on Lew's involvement with the Union army, the Lincoln Assassination, and the Andersonville trial. If you enjoy the outdoors, you will enjoy our groundskeeper's wonderful use of period-era foliage and the exhibit on Lew's love of fishing. If you like architecture, the study itself is a gold mine on the styles and features.

In summation, I enjoy my volunteer work at the Lew Wallace Study and continue to volunteer, receiving the inspiration I need from simply setting foot inside the study and discussing one of America's most interesting figures of the nineteenth century. Visit at least once, then many other times subsequently, to see with your own eyes what I have described in this introductory blog.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spring Blooms

The grounds of the Study are filled with blooming wildflowers. Wild hyacinth, allium, iris, wood violets, prairie trillium are just some of the wonderful plants found on the Study grounds.

Gardens are in the process of being planted. Cannas, elephant ears, caladiums, castor beans, lantana are some of the plants that will be on display throughout the summer. The children's garden is featured this year, with local children doing the planting. Lamb's ear (please touch) and cherry tomatoes are some of the fun plants in this garden. Cool season pansies and alyssum were planted during the Lew Wallace Birthday Celebration. Marigolds are to be planted soon and the garden will be filled with lots of bright colorful flowers.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

New Items Make Gifting a Breeze!










Things are blooming outside, and new things are also popping up in our gift shop! We have several new book titles for readers of all ages, including our 2008 Brown Bag Book Club selections Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and The Wizard of Menlo Park by Randall Stross. Younger readers can check out You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Civil War Soldier!, which spells out what life was like in the Union army, from the wool uniforms to the tasteless hardtack!

Lew Wallace became very acquainted with the art of using a quill pen on parchment paper, and now you can too! Our “Create Your Own Parchment Document” kits include ink, glass ink bottle with cork stopper, feather quill pen and piece of parchment to make your own historical-looking documents. Want to make your words really stick? Our new Lew Wallace magnetic poetry kits mix the fun of creating your own verse with some terrific Wallace-themed words to make an activity that entertains and educates!

In addition, we have a terrific collection of items for the Civil War buff, literary enthusiast and nature lover in your family. Remember the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum gift shop when you shop, and keep General Wallace’s legacy alive with every gift you send! Contact us through our website, by emailing info@ben-hur.com, or by giving us a call at 765-362-5769 and let us help with all your gift-giving needs.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

International Museum Day--May 18, 2008

The General Lew Wallace Study and Museum in Crawfordsville is celebrating International Museum Day on Sunday, May 18, 2008 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. International Museum Day has been celebrated throughout the world since 1977. In celebration of the impact that museums have on the cultural enrichment of the community, the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum will be offering free tours of its facilities, light refreshments, and a free gift to all visitors. The General Lew Wallace Study and Museum is located at 200 Wallace Avenue in Crawfordsville. For more information on this and other events at the Museum, contact 765-362-5769 or visit our website at www.ben-hur.com.