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Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn

Amazing Maize ExhibitThe ‘Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn’ exhibit is taking place at the Indiana State Museum in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana through March 24, 2013.

Few Americans realize the amount of corn that goes into sustaining the American way of life. Imagine one cornfield per American per year. Sound excessive? The reality is that 25 corn plants per day, or 9,125 plants per year, are consumed or processed in some fashion to provide a whole spectrum of products we take for granted.

About the Exhibit

This educational exhibit goes back 10,000 years to trace the origins of corn, and shows how it changed gradually over time, from a wild grass called teosinte to what is now considered modern corn. It’s easy to go about daily life, oblivious to the fundamental role that corn plays in modern society. While this is the case for most modern humans, it was not always the case. The ancient Mesoamericans, for example, worshipped corn and saw it as a sacred part of life.

Guests will have an opportunity to use the same types of the early peoples used, as well as more modern tools. Expect to gain a new appreciation for how corn touches so many aspects of modern life.

Artifacts on Display

Among the artifacts on display are flour corn ear, flint corn ear, popcorn ear, sweet corn ear, dent corn ear, plastic pellets, teosinte plant specimen , teosinte seeds , modern field corn ear cross , cereal grain heads and kernels, cave corn cobs, Sunset Crater lava rock, North American corn ears, Mexican and Guatemalan corn ears, South American (Andean) corn ears, South American (Lowland) corn ears, South American (Columbia) corn ears, Stone blade hoe, Clam shell blade hoe, Chichi bowl, Katsina doll, corn griddle, mortar and pestle, corn storage bin, wooden ladle, corn husk shoes, corn husk doll, husking pin, deer jaw bone scraper, bison shoulder blade hoe, digging stick, mano and metate and a tortilla press.

Little Known Products Made from Corn

You probably already know that corn is used in the making of common products like breakfast cereals, tortillas and, of course, canned corn. But corn in some form or another is used in the making of some pretty unexpected things. Specially coated papers, for example, use raw corn starch in the manufacturing process. The adhesives that are found on the back side of postage stamps and packaging tape are made from compounds derived from corn starch. Corn starch is used in the manufacturing process of special porcelain that is used to make spark plugs. Corn starch is use to prevent rubber tires from sticking to the molds. Sorbitol, a common ingredient used in toothpaste, is made from corn sugar dextrose. Various dyes, lacquers, resins and solvents are made from a special type of alcohol which involves specially processed corncobs. Corn is also used in the making of beer. Maltodextrins are derived from corn; they are used to keep granules free flowing in such products as instant coffee and tea, instant soup mixes, etc. Other unlikely products that entail the use of corn in some fashion are pesticides, fertilizers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, antibiotics and gypsum/drywall.

Event Info:

  • Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn
  • Sept. 24, 2011 – March 24, 2013
  • 650 W. Washington St.
  • Indianapolis, IN 46204
  • 317.232.1637

Mike Woods