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We want to take you behind the scenes, to give you insider information you won't find anywhere else. This is where we pull Bloomington's hip happenings together with recommendations from our team, first-hand accounts from project producers, and guest blogs by local gurus.  The Backstage Blog helps you stay in front of it all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Museums Galore

The history of Bloomington is vast and interesting — and there are more than ten museums that show off their own sections of its history. From limestone, to ancient species, to photography, to homes, and more, find the museum that fits you (and your family's) interest best. See a sneak peek at some of the museums and what they offer below!

Eskenazi

Kid-Friendly

Indiana Geological and Water Survey

Indiana Geological & Water Survey Museum

The Indiana Geological & Water Survey Museum is home to Indiana rocks, minerals, and fossils spanning 450 million years of Hoosier history. They collect and archive materials, such as their bedrock core collection, historic coal mine archive, and Indiana Limestone Company Photography Collection. Rotating exhibits on earth science topics and a hand-on learning center are available to the public.

Visit their Learning Lab that is part museum, part lab, and part classroom. You will get the chance to compare rocks and fossils, create art inspired by their collections, and participate in other interactive activities. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to stop by their ever-evolving exhibitions as well.

Admission is free.
Monroe County History Center

An exhibit on Monroe County's many cultures at the Monroe County History Center

The Monroe County History Center collects, preserves, and presents the genealogy, historical accounts, and artifacts of Monroe County to show the heritage & culture of the community. Inside their walls, you can explore the vibrant history of Bloomington's limestone industry, the evolving landscape of Monroe County's transportation systems, the enduring legacy of local legends, from athletes to musicians, and an array of other captivating narratives. 

Take your child to sit in a desk from a real 1880’s classroom or hear the roar of Monroe the Schmalz bear. Not only is the History Center a blast for kids, but is great for anyone wanting to learn more about the unique history of Bloomington and Monroe County. Some exhibits are rotating, so check to see what is there before you go.

Admission fee charged.
WonderLab Museum

wonderlab

If you and your child have ever come to Bloomington, we’re sure you have heard of WonderLab Museum! Named one of the Top 25 science centers in the country, the museum strives to provide kids with opportunities to learn about all things science-related through interactive exhibits and programs.

When stepping through the doors of WonderLab, you step into another world. Try out their HoverCraft to see how high your craft will hover, float, or fly. Or come face-to-face with desert animals, including the blue-tongued skink and vinegaroons. All ages are welcome to go and explore.

Admission fee is charged.

Historic Homes

Farmer House Museum

Farmer House Museum

Mary Ellen and Ed Farmer left their historic 1869 residence and its contents to the Bloomington community in 1999, to be used to promote historic preservation and cultural memory. There's a special focus on the years 1930-1950, a time of coming-of-age for the Farmers and for the country as a whole.

Visit the Farmer House Museum to see the authentic nineteenth & twentieth century items including clothing, family photographs, school memorabilia, letters, household items, pottery, and furniture. Located on College Avenue, you are a short walk from the Square and Kirkwood Avenue, so don’t forget to check out the great restaurants and shops close by after your visit.

Admission is free.
Hinkle-Garton Farmstead

Hinkle-Garton

Distinctive both for its mid-1800s architectural style and its historical significance in Monroe County, the Hinkle-Garton Farmstead (on the National Register of Historic Places since 2007) spans over 11 acres, with two homes, four farm outbuildings, and extensive grounds. The artifacts & materials represent three generations of the Hinkle and Garton families.

Dive into the lives of those in the late 1800s through the Queen Anne House and Rental House, and make your way through the rest of the 11 acre property. The museum is usually open on the last Saturday of each month. 

Admission is free.
Wylie House

Exterior of the Wylie House

Home to IU's first president, Andrew Wylie, the Wylie House is open to the public with a guided tour. The 1835 structure is one of Bloomington's oldest homes and is outfitted as it might have looked during that time period. Virtual tours are also available.

In the house, you can see family artifacts and photos that document the early history of Indiana University and Bloomington. In addition to the archival materials, on the grounds sits an heirloom garden where you can learn more about their seed-saving procedures and seed library.

On-Campus

Eskenazi Museum of Art

A mother and daughter observing art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art

Located in the heart of the Indiana University campus, the Eskenazi Museum of Art has over 45,000 objects available for observation in the museum, including ancient Greek pottery, Renaissance panels, Asian treasures dating back to the third millennium BC, and contemporary works from Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Claude Monet. The museum was designed by I.M. Pei who also designed the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

With seven total galleries, you can explore art through different cultures, including Asian, African, Oceania, Indigenous, European, and American art, as well as ancient and contemporary art. The museum offers three study rooms to see any of their off-display work, do research, or teach a class.

Admission is free.
Lilly Library

A display of Lilly Library's miniature book collection

The Lilly Library offers over 8.5 million manuscripts, 450,000 books, 150,000 pieces of sheet music, 30,000 mechanical puzzles, and a variety of other interesting cultural artifacts. The museum is located between the IU Auditorium and Woodburn Hall on IU's campus.

A few of the library's most notable items include the first printed edition of The Canterbury Tales, a New Testatment of the Gutenburg Bible, the First Folio of Shakespeare's works, George Washington's letter accepting the presidency of the United States, the Boxer Codex, Thomas Jefferson’s personal copy of the Bill of Rights, and the intimate & fascinating archives of cultural luminaries such as Orson Welles, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Affiliation to IU is not required for entry.

Admission is free.
University Collections at McCalla

University Collections at McCalla

Located in the historic McCalla School on the edge of the Indiana University campus, University Collections at McCalla is home to eight gallery spaces that house temporary and semi-permanent exhibits. Their collections showcase the IU and local community's extraordinary variety of art, cultural heritage, scientific treasures, and more.

Their exhibits include tooth-related collections, photography on the historical fraternal societies of IU, and work by Rudy Pozzatti. They offer digital tours through a free app that include object information, plus: audio tours, interactive 3D objects, close-up images, video, interactive maps, puzzles, and more.

Admission is free.
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Samantha Hyde

Samantha Hyde

Samantha is the Digital Content Developer at Visit Bloomington. She is a proud recent graduate of Indiana University, a lover of concerts, traveling, and is a pro tennis fanatic. 

 

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