Intern: Erin Hayden

Hello everyone, my name is Erin Hayden and I have been an intern here at the Elkhart County Historical Museum for a few months now.  I love it here and have gotten to do many interesting things that not only fascinate me, but will give me a lot of experience for the future.  I am going into my senior year at Indiana University-Perdue University Fort Wayne this year with a major in anthropology and minor in creative writing.  I was born and raised in Elkhart so I have always known about this museum but never thought I would end up being here and learning as much as I have.

            Throughout the past few months I have gotten to do quite a few interesting projects that I will be able to put on my resume.  The firstgoldberg 002 project was putting together the display case that is located in what is now the quilt exhibit; this was especially interesting for me because I got to set it up however I wanted to. Along with being able to put a picture of this in my resume it gave me a sense that I was really helping out with something.  Another project I had a lot of fun with was putting together one of the bulletin boards in the basement hallway.  It is quite a large space and I was given free reign to design it the way I liked.  I was given a topic and supplies and was free to put together something fun for people to look at and I like to think I did a goldberg 003pretty good job. 

            Another aspect of this internship that interested me was being able to do research on an exhibit that will be coming soon.  This gave me experience in yet another aspect of museum work that will help me in the long run.  Plus I can add to that list that I got the chance to make two new I Spy sheets for the museum!  I really feel like I have been able to contribute at least a bit to this museum and that is a great feeling.   

            One project I was involved in that I had so much fun with was the Pioneer day camp.  I got to plan out some of the events and work with the kids all three days, and I have to say it was a blast; not only was the experience fun but the kids were great!  But my time here is almost over, which makes me sad.  I have had so much fun here and learned so much and want to thank everyone for how nice they have been and how helpful and I hope that I can come back and help out more in the future!

Quilts: History in the Making

  Picture 003  Quilts can tell us so much about the past as well as the person making them.  Here at the museum we are proud to have an exhibit that shows off history in the making with a number of beautifully designed quilts.  The ladies of the Heartland Quilters Guild of Elkhart that crafted these quilts tell their own story without words, but still give us a little insight as to where they got the inspiration for their designs.  Among these quilts there are so many intricate arrangements of patterns and interesting uses of colors. 

Picture 001

  You don’t have to be an expert in quilting to enjoy this beautiful display of craftsmanship, so this exhibit can be enjoyed by anyone.  Whether you want to learn more about quilting or you just enjoy any kind of lovely art, this exhibit has a number of great points to it.  Throughout the exhibit you will see how well these talented women can tell a story through their quilt designs. 

 Picture 002It is easy to see from the quilts themselves to the direct quotes from the ladies of the Quilt Guild that quilting is probably not quite what you expected.  Through this display these quilters will tell you not only what it takes for them to quilt, but why they love what they do.

  Don’t miss your chance to come see these gorgeous displays of talent, the exhibit is located on the first floor temporary gallery and is open until the end of September 2013.

There’s a ditch in our yard!

Quilt Garden Irrigation ditch 003

If you’ve driven past the museum in the last few days you have probably noticed some changes in front of the museum. You can see there is a pile of dirt that has been upturned in a long line spanning the length of our yard. Don’t worry, it was not a giant mole that destroyed our yard, it is actually a good thing. Quilt Garden Irrigation ditch 002With the weather finally getting warmer, hopefully for good, we are preparing for our quilt garden that’ll be up and running by the end of the month. This year we are getting help from the Elkhart County Master Gardeners, and to help the effort in maintaining the garden they wanted to install an irrigation system so that the flowers in the garden can be watered easily. So for the past couple days the process began and they had to dig a ditch from the garden to the building so it can connect to a water line. This will be a great improvement for the quilt garden. Now it will be much easier to water and maintain the garden so that it will look beautiful all summer long. Quilt Garden Irrigation ditch 004The garden will open later this month the same day as our Heritage Quilt Challenge exhibit. To celebrate the opening of both, we are going to be holding a reception on our front lawn.

Museum staff road trip!

Kalamazoo trip 001

Yesterday, the staff took a little field trip to Kalamazoo. The reason being with the library opening up soon we wanted to talk to an expert in libraries, particularly local history libraries, and see how they have their books and records organized. Kalamazoo trip 002Our first stop of the day was at the Kalamazoo Public Library Local History room. The library itself was very impressive , not just the way it looked but also how it was run. We got a tour of the local history room to see how they group their books together, what type of subjects they collect, and how they organize their news paper clippings, articles, and genealogy collections. The good thing is that we have organized our new Corson Library in a similar manner to how the Kalamazoo Library has their local history section organized. With no one on staff coming from a library background it was good to know that we are doing things correctly. We also left with a lot of good ideas and tips when it comes to revamping our museum policies so that we are on point with other libraries.Kalamazoo trip 003

After lunch we took in the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. The museum incorporates all different types of subjects: history, science, music, art. We saw an exhibit on mummies, learned the history of the Kalamazoo area, and also had fun with the hands on activities in their Science in Motion exhibit. It gave all of us some great ideas to integrate into future exhibits at our museum. In all, it was a great day, the staff had fun, and we learned a lot and gave us some great tips and ideas.

Our new scanner

EPSON scanner

Last Thursday we got a pleasant surprise from the UPS man: a new EPSON flatbed scanner! A couple of months ago, Matt had applied for a technology grant through ESPON, and we hadn’t heard anything so we had thought they were still deliberating on who would would receive the grant or that the museum wasn’t chosen. So it is safe to say that we we’re all very surprised to find this being delivered to us.

The reason that we are so happy that we got the scanner is all the things that we will be able to do with it once we have it up in running. The museum already has a scanner, but our new one is larger and state of the art. With a larger scanner we will be able to digitize larger documents like newspapers, maps, posters, architectural drawings, and other things that just wasn’t possible before given the size of the scanner we werer using. With our new digitization capabilities we will be able to raise the quality of signage we produce, which will raise the quality of our future exhibits as well as programs. Most exciting, however, is that this scanner will allow us to share more of  the history of Elkhart County with all of you, the public. We can now take items that might be put at risk from being handled and used, and we can digitize it, and allow people to use the digitized copy while the original can be preserved for generations to come. Altogether, this will let us share the treasures of our collection with all the audiences we are trying to reach.

We want to thank EPSON for awarding us the grant of our new scanner!

March’s schedule of events

Here is our schedule of events for the month of March. Information can also be found on the ECHS website

March 5th: Tuesday Tours: Occupations of the Past

Time: 1:00 p.m.

cost: $2.00/person

March 7th: Tupperware! Movie Night

Time: 6:30 p.m.

free admission

March 19th: Tuesday Tours: On The Home Front

Time: 2:00 p.m.

cost: $2/person

March 21st: Collection Curiosities program

Time: 7:00 p.m.

cost: $1/person

March 24th: Palm Sunday Tornado Remembrance Event

Time: 1:00 p.m.

free admission

It’s your history, so let’s hear from you!

Staff 002Trading






This Thursday we are holding a public feedback session from 6:30-7:30. This is one of the first steps we are taking in our StEPS program as well as the beginning of creating an Interpretive Plan for the museum. After reading that sentence you are probably asking yourself what is an Interpretive Plan? Well, an Interpretive Plan is a document that will guide the museum in the future in regards to the history we present and how we interpret to the public. For example, this plan will help us develop themes and periods of history that will become future exhibits, programs, tours, and other experiences at the museum.

 To create  this plan , the staff has been working hard looking at what we already do, what we are not doing, and what we think could be done in the future to improve the museum. We, as a staff, could work really hard on this process but we need the most important voice to be heard and involved in this process: Yours! The visitor. Whether you have physically visited the museum, been to one of our events, checked out our Facebook, been on our website, or are reading this blog, you are the most important part of the museum, and we want to know what you think.

 When you come to the museum on Thursday, we want to show our appreciation, and get your feedback to a variety of questions that involve things like why you think History is important. What makes a good exhibit? What kind of themes should the museum present? And others.  We also wanted to have an event that is fun for everyone so instead of having people sit and we ask you questions and get your responses; we have come up with so creative ways for you to respond. For example, you can share your ideas by posting them, with a post-it note, on a big board as you can see what others have written to see what your community finds important, or you will be able to respond to questions by putting candy into buckets (don’t worry there’ll be some candy you can keep too!) or filling buckets with written responses. We think when you come, you’ll have a fun time while giving the staff vital feedback, and most importantly, helping the museum.

 With the focus on the future of the museum at this event, we will also be providing you a glimpse into what we will be going on at the museum over the next few months. There will be guided tours of the museum showing you the vision the staff has for the museum by showing you recently renovated exhibit galleries, a sneak peek at the new Corson library, our plans for the old library space, and some new exhibit themes on the horizon. There will also be the opportunity to see what the museum currently offers in terms of programs for schools, and groups, and always staff will be there to answer questions.

 In appreciation of our visitors, and with it being Valentine’s Day we there will also be door prizes that you will be able to win. The prizes include gift certificates for Danny K’s Smokehouse and Grill, The Elkhart Civic Theatre, and a private tour of the Fruit Hills Winery and Orchard. It’ll be a fun time, so come on out, and let your voice be heard.

Volunteer Spotlight: Phyllis and Gordon



We wanted to highlight some of the great work our volunteers do for the museum. Today we are looking at Phyllis and Gordon Hostetler. Phyllis has been volunteering at the museum since 2004, where she started doing work in the library. Her husband, Gordon, joined the museum in March of 2011. Together they have been working entering information from our photograph collection into our Past Perfect museum software. Entering this information into Past Perfect is extremely important for the conservation of the museum’s photographs and it helps people conduct research quicker and more efficiently. We asked them to write a description about what they do in detail, so read about what they do in their own words:

Past Perfect is a data base for organizing the information about museum collections.  The information includes what the item is, who the donor is, when it entered the collection, what its condition is, etc.  We work just on the photographs.  Others work on entering information about the physical items in the museum collection.  All of the photographs were catalogued on paper and scanned into the computer in the early 2000s.  We are now taking the information that was recorded on paper and putting it into Past Perfect.  We also marry the photo graphics file with the Past Perfect record.  When we come in we go to the archives room and get the paper records that we will need and the box of photographs that we are working on.  As we enter each record we note on the paper that we have done so.  There are still many photographs to be entered, so we are not sure that we will be able to complete this project this year. Overall, we really enjoy looking at the photos and we often learn new things about the people and places in Elkhart County.

You can usually see Phyllis and Gordon working at the museum on Friday mornings. Thank you Phyllis and Gordon for all your hard work.

Book Moving Day!

Book moving day 008

A few days ago our library project made a huge leap forward in only a few hours. On a Monday morning the staff and volunteers came together to move the books out of the old library and into the new one. By using boxes and carts it made the process very easy. Book moving day 003Liz and Frank devised an excellent game plan to keep the books in order by labeling the boxes and when they were moved into the new library to be put on specific tables to ensure when they go back on the shelves they’ll be in the right spot. Moving the books took much faster than we anticipated, and were done in about an hour and a half!

With the books moved the work wasn’t done. With the time we had, we cleaned the shelves in the book cases. Each case was taken out one by one and given a good cleaning. Book moving day 012In this picture you can see Liz and one of our volunteers, Alice, really getting in there to make sure all the dust was gone, and the shelves were cleaner than clean.

The next day is when the heavy lifting took place. Terry, our maintenance man, moved all of the book cases into the new library. It was interesting to see the cases come down and see what was behind the book cases. Maybe there would be a book that got stuck, or a secret treasure map from people who hid a bunch of money in the fields of Middlebury. But, alas, we found nothing like that, but we did see some of the brickwork of the building and some interesting green paint. Looking at the paint and brickwork gave us snapshot of the past.Book moving day 013 For those of you that don’t know, our museum is housed in what used to be a school. Looking at the brickwork showed us how they constructed the building, and also help date when this particular part was added; the school went through a few expansions. There were also some grey blobs on the brickwork which we think might be what was used to hold up the blackboard when this room was a classroom. You can come look for yourself, the section of the wall will still be exposed while were finishing the new library. Now, all the book cases have found their new home in the library, the shelves have been put back on, and the glass doors have been reinstalled. Book moving day 017They look really great in the new space. The books haven’t been put in the shelves yet, but this was a huge leap forward in completing the new library. We want to thank all the volunteers that helped us move the books. It was a huge help!

Other than moving the books, the main desk was completed. It was moved from the annex and into the library were the the tops were put on.Book moving day 002 We also had two custom made tables that match the main desk made and there were also put in the library; you can somewhat see them in one of the pictures above. You can’t get a good view, because they’re covered in books, but they look really nice. It is exciting to see everything starting to come together. We have our public opening of the library scheduled for April 26th, and while we still have a lot of work to do, we can’t wait to have the library completed to share with the public, and help them research the county history.

Fifth Annual Quilt Documentation Day is Here!

Greetings everyone on a bright sunshine filled day in January!  My reason for being a “guest” on this blog is to remind all of you of our Quilt Documentation Day here at the Museum on Saturday January 19th.


This will be our 5th year for documenting Elkhart County quilts and it promises to be another exciting day of quilt discovery! Although we all enjoy getting together and sharing the quilts, both vintage and newly made, there is an enduring reason for us to have Documentation Day.  On a local level, quilts have been an important part of the history of our county and regional area.  I think of course of our Amish and Mennonite heritage but also the social and cultural history that our quilts contain.  Some of you will remember the quilt we’ve had the privilege to document that was beautiful velvet Stars with the fabric being of instrument case lining remnants from the Conn Music Industry right here in our own area.  Each time we get together we have the privilege of seeing extraordinary quilts made or migrated to ‘Elkhart County. We become a part of that history when we document quilt history in our own time.

“MIgrated” to Elkhart county gives a new dimension as that allows us to trace immigration patterns to Elkhart County through quilts.  We know certain quilt patterns and styles were made in certain areas of our country so we can identify where the quilts originated. When someone has had the foresight to sign and/or label their quilt we can all share in the history of the quilt’s as well as the owner’s/maker’s journey.

We as well as those before us quilt to create, and celebrate, events such as weddings and the birth of new family members, we quilt to commemorate, such  as the World’s Fair Century of Progress quilts or the many quilts that arise from a shared event, such as the Quilts of Valor. We quilt to grieve, knowing that when our hands are busy it gives our hearts a chance to heal.

Whether you are a quilter,, collect quilts ,have quilts to share or are curious about quilting, I cordially invite you and encourage you to join us again this year as we gather on Saturday January 19th  to document and discuss yet more quilts.  As always, we’ll have refreshments and lots of good quilting fellowship!  Come learn along with us!

Donna L. Kooistra, American Quilter’s Society Certified Appraiser of Quilted Textiles