Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ben-Hur on a Bet?

We frequently receive questions by e-mail relating to Lew Wallace, and I received one today asking whether or not Lew Wallace wrote Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ on a bet. Lew Wallace’s motivation to write Ben-Hur has been the subject of many discussions, beginning during his lifetime. Wallace answered this oft-posed question by writing “How I Came to Write Ben-Hur” for his Autobiography. To summarize: Wallace began writing what would become the novel beginning with his personal exploration of the first Christmas simply. He laid the manuscript aside without the thought of a formal book. Then, in 1876, while riding a train to Indianapolis, Wallace engaged in a conversation about God and Christianity, realized he was not as informed as he thought he was, and as a result, “...the mortification of pride I then endured, or if it be preferred, the punishment of spirit, ended in a resolution to study the whole matter, if only for the gratification there might be in having convictions of one kind or another.” (Wallace, Autobiography Vol. II 1906) So, it was Wallace’s idea to undertake a study of Christ rather than a bet from someone else, and reviving his earlier manuscript of the first Christmas, he wrote a tale of Christ through the life of a contemporary, Judah Ben-Hur.

As for Christ’s appearance in the novel, Wallace stated that “...He should not be present as an actor in any scene of my creation. The giving a cup of water to Ben-Hur at the well near Nazareth is the only violation of this rule. Finally, when He was come, I would be religiously careful that every word He uttered should be a literal quotation from one of His sainted biographers.” (Wallace, Autobiography Vol. II 1906) He was also insistent the Christ not be played by a person in the Broadway stage production of Ben-Hur that began in 1899; the producers solved this by portraying Christ with a shaft of white light rather than an actor.

Many things happen as a result of bets, but best-selling novels are not one of them.

--Amanda Wesselmann, Associate Director

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Catlin-Legutko Leaving Lew Wallace Study

The General Lew Wallace Study and Museum announced today that the director, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, will be leaving the organization in May. She has accepted the position of CEO at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine ( An interim director will be appointed in March to guide the organization for the next four to six months.

Catlin-Legutko has led the organization since 2003 when it was a seasonal museum. Over the past six years the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum has been transformed into a model for excellence in small museums, winning the National Medal for Museum Service in 2008 for its community service and collections care. Under Catlin-Legutko’s guidance, the Museum has established such community mainstays as the Lew Wallace Youth Academy, the Artists in Residence Program and the Taste of Montgomery County, the tremendously successful Museum fundraiser that attracted over 2,000 visitors and helped to fund needed structural improvements to the Study building.

“Serving as the director of the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum has been an incredible honor, from beginning to end,” said Catlin-Legutko. “We knew that the General’s study could teach thousands about the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture, and it’s this powerful mission statement that I will miss the most.”

“The Museum is so much better for having had her,” said Visitor Services and Marketing Coordinator Kara Edie of Catlin-Legutko. “She saw an under-appreciated local jewel and showcased it to the entire nation. She brought a level of professionalism to this organization had never been seen before, and laid the groundwork for great things that we will continue to achieve even after she’s gone.”

“Cinnamon has a great opportunity, and I’m happy that she knows she can take it,” said Associate Director Amanda Wesselmann. “We will certainly miss her, but during her six years here she has helped lay a solid foundation that we can build upon.”

Former Board President and current Treasurer Dale Petrie remarked, "As I watched people respond to Cinnamon as she presented at the National Medal Symposium in Washington, DC last October, I knew our days with Cinnamon as director were numbered. We have been indeed fortunate to have been able to have such a rising star in the museum field guide the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum for the past six years. The good news is that she is leaving us with a great board and staff which should attract a very qualified field of candidates for the position."

Board President Suanne Milligan shared, "We are grateful for Cinnamon's inspiring leadership and wish her every success in her new role. The Board of Directors is moving forward with enthusiasm about future possibilities for the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum and this community."
The Museum board of trustees has appointed a search committee to guide the selection process for a new museum director.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Look Inside: Study Deterioration

02-11-09 Water Damage 11, originally uploaded by WallaceStudy.

During heavy rains, water perennially leaks into the basement of the Study building, potentially causing damage to any artifacts stored downstairs. One of the few pieces stored there is General Wallace's original 1870 French Victoria carriage. The carriage, in its original condition, is placed on wooden blocks to limit any contact with leaking water, but the temperature and humidity fluctuations in this kind of atmosphere are incredibly detrimental to the life of this artifact. This photo, of significant pooling in the Study basement, was taken on February 11, 2009, during a late-winter rainstorm.

The Staff and Trustees of the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum have been raising funds and public awareness about the growing problem of structural deterioration of the Study building since 2005. To that end, we have established a Facebook Cause ( that will gather information about the Study building, photos and videos, and links with what you can do to help. Join our cause, tell your friends, and help us save General Wallace's Study, a National Historic Landmark and what Wallace called "the pleasure-house of my soul."

For further information about the Study Restoration Project, contact

--Kara Edie, Visitor Services & Marketing Coordinator

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A River Runs Through It...

A mid-winter warm up sent a major storm system through the area on February 11th. Over 3 inches of rain fell in just a few hours. The runofff created quite a few 'rivers' running through the grounds. The runoff follows the topography of the land and flows along side of the Study. The water flows towards the site of the former reflecting pool. The baldcypress trees (with the birdhouses) are at the edge of the pool. The water continued to flow throughout the day and is still present 24 hours later.

With 8 inches of snow melting within days of this storm system, the ground was thoroughly saturated. Fortunately this occurs very seldom, maybe once or twice a year. The Study itself is not exempt from the weather. Cleanup occurs both inside and out when weather of this nature occurs. A major fund raising campaign is in progress at this time for the repair of the copper dome on the Study. With rakes in hand, we will keep the drains clear of debris and buckets handy for the leaks in the Study.

--Deb King, Grounds Manager

Friday, February 6, 2009

Lew's Crew Looking for More

WANTED: Additions to the National Medal-winning team

With a Volunteer Round Up set for Thursday, February 12, from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m., we're welcoming new members to Lew's Crew. There are plenty of positions open, especially in visitor services. Visitor services volunteers greet visitors, sell gift shop items, and give tours. Other positions include grounds work, office assistance, and preparing and executing special events like the Lew Wallace Youth Academy, exhibit openings, and the Taste of Montgomery County.

I asked current volunteer John Wooten what he would say about his volunteer experience here, and he gave an enthusiastic response: “I’ve volunteered here for three years, but it’s definitely not work. I love showing off the Study and telling Lew’s story. I get to use my human resources background and meet a lot of different people.”

Lew’s Crew members commit to three-hour shifts one to four times per month. Museum staff members work with volunteers to schedule shifts and positions that are mutually beneficial. An orientation course is scheduled for later this month, and refresher training will be offered periodically.

Next week's Volunteer Round Up is rescheduled from an earlier event that was snowed out. The publicity from that first date, though, has already prompted several volunteers to join the team. For more information, contact me, Amanda Wesselmann, at the Museum: 765-362-5769 or

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Open for the Season!

It's February 1st, and the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum is once again open for tours! Just a reminder about our hours:

Wednesday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m. -- 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 p.m. -- 5:00 p.m.

If you're interested in tours on Monday or Tuesday, be sure to call ahead (765-362-5769) for an appointment.

Our next exhibit, Embattled: General Wallace's Leadership in the Civil War, will debut to the public on Saturday, March 21. A special sneak preview of the blockbuster exhibit will take place on Friday, March 20 for members of the Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society. Not a member? Sign up today to support this National Historic Landmark and receive some great member benefits.

We have a terrific, event-filled schedule in the works for 2009, including tried-and-true favorites like our annual Lew Wallace Youth Academy and Civil War Encampment, as well as new events like this fall's Leadership Symposium. And of course, our 3rd Annual Taste of Montgomery County will be bringing record crowds to our beautiful grounds on August 29! Our complete event calendar will be updated on our website very soon, so be sure to see all the fun we have to offer and make your plans to visit.

See you @ the Study!

--Kara Edie, Visitor Services & Marketing Coordinator