Indiana's Museums Offer Great
Getaways for Curious Minds
You don't have to travel far or spend a lot of money to
enjoy attractions that celebrate the unusual topics that
interest you most. In fact, for those who like venturing off
the beaten path, several specialized Indiana museums offer
exhibits on everything from medicine and dollhouses to tanks
Although not as well known as some of their larger
counterparts, these one-of-a-kind museums located throughout
Indiana are fun and affordable reminders of our state's rich
history and culture.
Central Indiana: Brains in Jars and Dozens of Dollhouses
If you work in the medical field or simply find it
fascinating, The Indiana Medical History Museum on the
grounds of Indianapolis' former Central State Hospital is
the place to visit. Dedicated to preserving the history of
health sciences in Indiana, the museum houses more than
15,000 medical and health-care artifacts from the 19th and
early 20th centuries. While touring the historic structure
you'll see diseased human brains, antique stethoscopes and
X-ray machines, and "quack" devices such as the
"ultraviolet ray kit," once used to shoot electric
currents through the skin to relieve pain. Medical Landmarks
USA refers to the Indiana Medical History Museum as a
"marvelous museum quite simply without peer in the
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through
Saturdays and by appointment. Admission is $5 for adults, $1
for students 18 years and under, and free to children under
Just north of Indianapolis is the city of Carmel, where less
is always more at the Museum of Miniature Houses and Other
Collectibles. Even the museum's largest exhibit - a replica
of co-founder Nancy Lesh's childhood home - measures only 15
square feet. But the museum's more than 50 one-of-a-kind
exhibits, including furniture, room settings and intricately
furnished and lighted miniature houses, have attracted a lot
of attention from visitors since it opened in August of
Many of the miniature houses were built from scratch and
furnished with custom-made furniture. One of the museum's
tiny houses, a 4-by-6-foot "wedding house," has a
dining room table set with Lilliputian dinnerware. Another
miniature house is a $15 thrift shop item purchased during
the Depression. Hobbyists who no longer have room for
dollhouses donated many of the museum's collections. The
houses range in value from $700 to $40,000.
Serious collectors and casual observers alike can visit this
collection of miniature houses from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.
An admission fee - $2 for adults and $1 for children 10 and
under - is voluntary.
Northern Indiana: The Place to Blow Off Steam
At the Hesston Steam Museum, an unusual outdoor attraction
in rural northern Indiana, nostalgia lovers can explore the
bygone era of the steam engine. Visitors can stroll among
the machines that once furnished power for a growing America
or ride behind a genuine coal-fired steam locomotive through
155 acres of meadows and forests on a two-mile railway line.
Known as an operating museum of restored vintage equipment,
the museum's collection includes trains, an electric power
plant, a 92-ton crane, a sawmill, traction engines and
stationary engines. Easily accessible from I-94 and the
Indiana Toll Road, the museum can be a convenient side trip
or a special outing.
The museum opens with its Whistle Stop Days on Memorial Day
weekend. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays
through Labor Day. Labor Day weekend is the annual date for
Hesston's Steam and Power Show, a favorite of thousands each
year and recently named one of Indiana's Top 10 Festivals by
Travel Agent Magazine. During September and October, the
museum is open Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Train fares are
$3 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under.
Eastern Indiana: Gas to Pump and Tanks To Drive
East of Indianapolis along the Old National Road, stop in
Knightstown and visit Trump's Texaco Museum, a nostalgia
buff's paradise. The museum is a dream come true for owner
Bruce Trump, who practically grew up in his father's Texaco
station. The 2,000-square-foot museum houses everything from
gas pumps with globes to oil cans dating back to the 1920s.
The "gas station" looks so authentic that several
people have actually stopped to buy gas. (At 32 cents per
gallon, who wouldn't?)
More than 9,000 people from more than 30 states and three
countries have visited the museum since it opened in 1996.
Visitors include Texaco representatives and others just
wanting to recapture memories of days gone by.
To make an appointment to visit this museum, call Bruce
Trump at 765-345-7135. Admission is free.
If seeing the country's most complete collection of light
tanks at the Historical Military Armor Museum in Anderson
isn't enough to satisfy your curiosity, you can experience a
tank ride through 13 acres of woods adjacent to the museum.
And if you work up an appetite, you can get another taste of
military life - literally. The museum serves cafeteria-style
meals in its realistic mess hall. Housed inside the
30,000-square-foot museum are a variety of vehicles, all of
which are completely restored and operational, including
trucks, tanks, halftracks and a general's command car.
The museum is open 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays
and Saturdays. Admission is $2.
Western Indiana: A Rotating Jail and Collection of Local
In Crawfordsville, you can tour the first of seven rotary
jails built in the United States. Known today as the Old
Jail Museum, the Rotary Jail of Montgomery County was built
in 1881 to control prisoners without the necessity of
personal contact between the prisoners and the jailer. The
rotary cellblock consists of a two-tiered turntable divided
into pie-shaped wedges, with a total of 16 cells. The jailer
would simply rotate the mechanism to bring a particular cell
to the opening to put prisoners into and out of their cells.
The jail was abandoned in the late 1960s and reopened as the
Old Jail Museum in 1975. It features exhibits related to
local history, art and the Old Jail itself. Items such as
Indian artifacts, pioneer artifacts, period costumes and
household furnishings are just a few of the things you'll
see in the sheriff's residence, an interesting example of
late Victorian architecture.
The museum is open to the public April, May, September and
October, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays through
Sundays. During June, July and August, it is open from 1
p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Sundays, and from 10 a.m. to
4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Admission is $2.
South Central Indiana: The Stone That Withstood King Kong
At Bedford's The Land of Limestone museum, you can see
entertaining and educational exhibits that recreate how
Lawrence County's famous resource, limestone, was used to
build and embellish such distinguished architectural
landmarks as the Empire State Building.
Displayed are tools, murals, maps, fossils, historical news
accounts and archival and architectural photographs, which
demonstrate how this natural resource helped develop a rural
19th century Indiana county into an industrial center for a
growing America in the early 1900s.
History, industry, architecture, geology and the arts have
been combined in the 500-foot, two-level exhibit, housed in
a 1926 Bedford limestone building that is listed in the
National Register of Historic Places.
Exhibit hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through
Fridays, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Admission is free.
Southern Indiana: Carousels, Organs and Cymbals
For a trip back to the heyday of carousels and carnivals,
visit Dale, where at Dr. Ted's Musical Marvels you'll find a
colossal collection of street organs, nickelodeons,
orchestrions, music boxes, phonographs, player pianos and a
wonderful Wurlitzer carousel organ. You'll find gramophones,
authentically restored Spanish street pianos and a
12-by-24-foot European dance organ that uses a huge music
book to play not only the organ but two accordions, two
saxophones, a bass drum, a snare drum, a wood block, a tempo
block, cymbals and a high hat. Tour guides not only explain
the history of the instruments, they make them come to life.
The museum is open May through September, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Mondays through Saturdays, and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Admission is $4.50 per adult, $2 for children between the
ages of 6 and 12, and free for children under 6.
Impress Your Friends!
So the next time you're looking for something different to
do, take a road trip to one of these little-known wonders
and bring home with you some interesting facts. You never
know when they'll come in handy!
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