Exploring museums together can be a wonderful family adventure – fun and educational.
Unfortunately, it can also get a little pricey.
That’s why the Smithsonian Institution has designated Saturday, Sept. 21, as Museum Day. It’s not just a name, it’s a gift from America’s national museum to you!
Go to www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday and get a free ticket for you and a guest to visit a participating museum at no charge on that day. One ticket per email address.
You’ll have a choice of museums from all over the country – including three fascinating spots in Wayne County, Indiana.
This is the second year for the Wayne County Historical Museum in Richmond to participate in Museum Day. “We love to do anything in conjunction with the Smithsonian,” said Executive Director Karen Shank-Chapman.
Of course, you’ll find a lot about county history. Step inside the county’s first schoolhouse. See memorabilia from the Wright Brothers’ youth in Richmond. Learn about the many things manufactured here: cars, steam engines, pianos, lawnmowers, bicycles, airplanes, and more.
But the collection doesn’t stop there. Museum founder Julia Meek Gaar made it her mission to “travel the world and bring it back to Wayne County children,” Shank-Chapman said.
Perhaps the best – but by no means the only – example of that is the Egyptian mummy, which has been thoroughly researched. In fact, there’s a whole Egyptology room complete with challenges and activities for kids.
And that’s just barely scratching the surface.
“We’ve got something for everybody here,” said Shank-Chapman. “It’s kind of exciting.”
Two others – the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site in Fountain City and the Model T Ford Club of America Museum in Richmond – are participating in Museum Day for the first time.
Levi and Catharine Coffin operated an important stop on the route for escaped slaves traveling north through Cincinnati and Eastern Indiana to freedom in Canada. The Coffins’ home has been called the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.
See how they lived and learn about their strategies. See the hiding places they used. In the Interpretive Center, get a sense of what it felt like to hide in one of those places. Find out about the lives of the people who ran toward freedom and about how the Underground Railroad operated around the country.
Site Manger Joanna Hahn is thrilled to be part of Museum Day. “It’s a good opportunity for people coming the first time,” she said.
It isn’t unusual for people in the region to have visited the Coffin house and/or the Wayne County Historical Museum on field trips during elementary school. Both Hahn and Shank-Chapman stress that it’s worth your while to come again and see how these old favorites have been updated.
The Model T museum, on the other hand, is relatively new to Richmond.
It’s jam-packed with examples of Henry Ford’s remarkable family car that was adapted into everything from school buses to delivery trucks and more. “It changed people’s lives,” said Model T Ford Club of America Executive Director Susan Yaeger.
The museum’s goal, Yaeger said, is to show “the whole progression” of the Model T, not only over its years of manufacture and the various uses it was put to, but also how it was sold and maintained. A separate building across the street from the main museum houses a garage and machine shop. Work is in progress to create an “agency shop,” where one man sold one car at a time – the predecessor to auto dealerships.
Through November, the museum is displaying a replica of Ford’s No. 2 Racer, the car that won a race from Terrytown, New York, to Seattle, Washington, in 1909. “It put the Model T on the map,” Yaeger said.
On Sept. 21, the Wayne County Historical Museum will be open its regular Saturday hours from 1 to 4 p.m. (Monday through Friday hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, keeping those same hours for Museum Day. The same is true of the Model T museum, with a little something extra for Sept. 21. Weather permitting, there will be free Model T rides from 1 to 3 p.m. that day.
Regular admission for the Wayne County museum is $7 for adults, $4 for ages 6-17, and free for children 5 and younger. The Coffin house is $10 for adults, $5 for children, and $8 for seniors. Model T museum admission is $5 for adults. Children 12 and younger and veterans are free.
In other words, it’s worth it to spend a few minutes applying for your free tickets from the Smithsonian.
But wait. What if you want even more of a bargain? Or what if the idea of free museum day appeals but you’re busy on Sept. 21?
Has Wayne County, Indiana got a deal for you!
We have five fascinating museums that willingly accept donations but don’t require admission fees!
Love football? The Indiana Football Hall of Fame in Richmond is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Find out about the stars of high school and college football over the years. See how the sport has changed from its earliest days.
Be inspired by the Richmond Art Museum, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Current exhibits include works by graphic artist Robert Indiana, who had a close lifelong connection with a Richmond family; works from the permanent collection; Poetic Landscapes, featuring John Elwood Bundy; and Two Degrees from Bundy, including works by friends and pupils of the artist, as well as others influenced by his art.
Stop by the Joseph Moore Museum on the campus of Earlham College in Richmond, open 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Did you know our region once was home to mastodons and giant beavers? See their skeletons and learn more about their lives. Interested in space? Ask at the desk. If staff is available (and usually it is), you can visit the planetarium. Staff also can introduce you to one of the museum’s live reptiles. There are scavenger hunts and other activities for kids of all ages.
Cambridge City Public Library is home to the Overbeck Museum, dedicated to the work of five sisters from the town who in the early 1900s created art pottery renown throughout the world. Their Art Nouveau and Art Deco vases received awards at shows in Paris, New York, and the Panama Pacific Exhibition. They also created small, funny figurines or “grotesques” of people and animals. Someone always is always on hand to show the collection from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. During other library hours, ask at the desk. If staff is available, they will open the museum. On Saturdays, that availability is limited from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Then there’s the Clay Township Historical Society Museum in Greens Fork, open noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. This is a truly eclectic collection – a little bit of everything from the history of a small town. There’s a lot to learn about how work, housekeeping, shopping, and play have changed over the years. Ask about anything you see and you’re sure to get a story, very likely a story that will make you laugh. No wonder some visitors find themselves returning again and again. We hope you’ll do the same.
Whatever your preferences be, whether that's ancient Egypt, animals of the past, antique cars, sports or just a fun history lesson - Wayne County aims to please! You are bound to find something you can dive into and be immersed by the past. Get an entire glimpse of all the museums and history that is awaiting you in Wayne County by browsing our Museums and History page.