Sunday, June 27, 2010

Travel Back in Time with General Lew Wallace

CRAWFORDSVILLE, IN, June 19, 2010— The Civil War is a major part of American history that all students have read about. But how often do they truly get to experience the sights and sounds of that tumultuous time?

The scent of campfires and the sounds of Stephen Foster songs will fill the air once again at the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum for its annual Civil War Encampment weekend, July 10 and 11. The Museum’s partnership with the Mid States Living History Association, Inc. allows visitors a rare chance to dig deeper into the experience of life as one of General Wallace’s rank-and-file soldiers.

Mid States, an Indianapolis-based group comprised of living history interpreters from throughout the Midwest, will present several activities on the Museum grounds over the course of the weekend that offer a greater insight into life as a Civil War soldier or civilian. In addition to live demonstrations of camp cooking, construction, medical care, music, telegraphy and artillery training, visitors will have the chance to interact with General Wallace himself, listening in as he reflects on the controversial battle of Shiloh and his innovative defense of Cincinnati.

“Our Encampment weekends are always popular,” said Acting Director Amanda Wesselmann. “It’s an immersive experience that lets visitors really appreciate what General Wallace and his soldiers had to endure during the Civil War, much more so than they could just by reading a book or sitting in history class.”

The live activities include “School of the Piece,” an instructional training exercise for cannoneers that demonstrates the degree of textbook and practical training required to function on the field of battle. Visitors will also be invited to participate in infantry training drills using toy “Woodfield” (wooden) rifles. Demonstrations in Civil War-era medical care, camp construction and cooking will also be held throughout the weekend.

On the evening of July 10, guests can experience the Civil War re-enactors preparing dinner and readying their tents for nightfall on the lush Museum grounds during their twilight tours of the encampment. “It’s a unique view of the Museum—and of Civil War life—that very few visitors get to see,” said Wesselmann.

Visitors are invited to experience the live drama of the Civil War during extended hours on Saturday, July 10 from 2:00 – 9:00 p.m. and during regular hours on Sunday, July 11 from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum in Crawfordsville. For further information, contact the Museum at 765-362-5769 or email study@ben-hur.com.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lew Wallace Youth Academy Now Accepting Applications

Change is afoot at the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum. As restoration work begins on Lew Wallace's Study building this summer, the students of this year's Lew Wallace Youth Academy will be learning why such drastic changes must take place.

The week-long Youth Academy, July 6-10, is accepting applications for students entering grades 6, 7 and 8 who have an interest in investigative learning, exploring new cultures and new ideas and making friends. Interested families can contact the Museum at 362-5769 or e-mail: study@ben-hur.com for more information.

Amanda Wesselmann, associate director of the museum, announced today that several changes are being made to the curriculum and faculty of the Youth Academy, which helped the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum win the 2008 National Medal for Museum Service. One new facet of the Academy will be the investigation into the Study Restoration Project, a construction plan over three years in the making that will begin this summer.

Mary Jane Teeters-Eichacker, Curator of Social History at the Indiana State Museum, will speak to Academy students about the importance of preserving historic artifacts and sites. Preservation is the primary motivation for the upcoming restoration of the Study, considering the building was designed by General Wallace himself and normally houses irreplaceable original memorabilia from the General's life. The leaky copper roof of the Study put those artifacts in danger each time it rained.

Other changes to this year's Academy include a Sharing Stories day when the students will write biographies and autobiographies of themselves, something General Wallace did in his Study; and a Creating Art day when students will paint with watercolors outdoors under the direction of Karen Patton, president of the Art League of Montgomery County and frequent exhibitor at the Downtown Crawfordsville Fall Art Show.

"I want to foster the students' artistic interest," said Patton, "So they can see that art is far more than just accuracy."

The Lew Wallace Youth Academy will culminate in the students interacting with the Civil War re-enactors of the Mid States Living History Association, who will be encamped on the Museum grounds during the weekend of July 10-11. In addition to discovering how soldiers encountered daily life during the tumultuous days of the Civil War, Academy students will participate in a flag retirement ceremony, the first of its kind in Academy history. The students will help to "retire" the Indiana state flag that currently flies over the Museum grounds according to protocol, and initiating the new Indiana flag that will wave proudly over the property for years to come.

"We have never had a flag retirement ceremony here at the Museum before," said Wesselmann. "This year's Academy students will learn what goes into retiring a flag in the proper manner, and why the occasion deserves reverence and dignity."

A few student spots are still open in this year's Youth Academy, held July 6-10 on the grounds of the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Students and their families are invited to an elaborate graduation ceremony on Saturday, July 10, attended by the Civil War interpreters of the Mid States Living History Association. Pre-registration for the Academy is required, and fees per family are only $25, although scholarships for families with financial need are available. Registrations for this once-in-a-lifetime experience are due July 4; please call the Museum at 362-5769 or e-mail: study@ben-hur.com to take part.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer storm


Summer has arrived with all the fireworks of the fourth of July. On June 21st and 22nd a severe storm hit the city of Crawfordsville, with lightning, straight line winds and torrential rain. Over 3" of rain fell overnight, filling the former moat and reflecting pond of the Study. Runoff streams ran throughout the museum's grounds. We were fortunate that the buildings did not sustain any damage.

The parking lot was filled with large and small limbs. The museum's grounds were littered with debris from a variety of trees. A large Kentucky coffee tree limb fell, breaking off a nearby tulip limb. One of the sassafras lost a large limb and several tulip trees lost their tops. This scenario played out all over the area.
The sound of chainsaws has permeated the air for the last 2 days. The museum cleanup has begun and the debris will be taken to the local compost site. Hopefully, the grounds cleanup will be finsihed just in time for the award winning Lew Wallace Academy and Civil War Encampment. July 6th through July 11th the museum grounds will be swarming with children and Civil War Reenactors.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What's in a Name?

In honor of the Strawberry Festival on the grounds of Lane Place in Crawfordsville this weekend, we thought it would be appropriate to consider one of our many ties to the Lanes. This excerpt was brought to our attention by one of our summer interns, Kasey Greer. Lew had strong opinions and might have been an authoritative military leader, but he didn’t always get his way on the home front.

“In early 1853, Lew and Susan Wallace were in Covington, Indiana, eagerly anticipating the birth of their first child. In a letter from Lew to his brother, William, he explained what the child should not be named. Lew parodied the names of his father and brothers when he wrote:

“I think I had better right here quietly observe, that the fellow’s name shant be David, that’s too plebian – nor William, that’s very pretty for a child, but unfit for a man, nor Edward, that’s too pretty for either man or baby. I have determined that the most aristocratic and democratic, the most semantic and unpedantic the most noble, manly, appropriate and significant of all that ‘best becomes a man’ is – ‘Lew.”

“However, Lew failed to convince Susan of the name ‘that best becomes a man.’ For on February 17, 1853, Susan gave birth to a son and he was named after his uncle, Henry Lane. Another factor figuring into naming the boy is that it was a common nineteenth century practice to name a child after a military commander and Lew Wallace had served under Henry Lane during the Mexican War.”

Lighty, Chandler S. “Henry Lane Wallace Part I.” Montgomery Magazine, (Crawfordsville, IN) Oct. 2, 2001.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The artwork has left the building

The last of Lew's artwork has left the Study building! Staff and a few experienced volunteers packed up paintings by Wallace himself as well as sculptures and paintings that he owned.

Collections Manager Amanda McGuire explains to summer Intern Kasey Greer (Indiana University) how to wrap and pack a plaster cast of Princess Irene, a character from Wallace's novel The Prince of India.



Amanda and Kasey hand Wallace's best known painting, The Conspirators, to Wabash College Archivist Beth Swift and Museum Director Larry Paarlberg.

Ethafoam, bubble wrap, and sturdy boxes are the tools of the trade for packing interns - er, scuplture. Kasey lines the bottom of this box with ethafoam to cushion a statue of Ben-Hur as a galley slave.


Many thanks to Superior Moving and Storage for helping move these historic artifacts!