Indiana State Museum

Comments and Reviews of the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis

Nice Museum

“Nice museum, pretty much everything you’d want to know about Indiana you can find here. We’re not huge museum fans, but it was located in the heart of downtown so we decided to check it out. Also went to the IMAX theater to watch a movie while we were there.”

I Was Expecting More

“The Indiana State Museum used to be located in the Capitol Building, but around 2002, I believe, it was moved to its present location in the White River State Park. The building that houses the museum is massive, and provides much more than a few exhibits. There is a large cafeteria, a meeting/conference hall, and even an entrance to the IMAX theater located conveniently in the lobby. The building has strong “modern” architecture, with angles everywhere. Walking outside, you are right on the water and can look back at the building to see large mirrored walls with angles jutting up to touch the sky. And while the architecture of the building itself might be very impressive, I am sad to say the overall museum leaves something to be desired.

Being that this is a “State Museum” after all, you would expect everything to be about the state of Indiana itself, and it basically is, with the exception of some changing exhibits. There is also a bridge on the third floor that takes you over the street into a smaller part of the museum housing a “Future of Indiana” exhibit that talks about nanotechnology. Among the other exhibits are various paintings/sculptures from Indiana artists, a history of Indiana’s pioneers and shopping industry, as well as information about the working conditions of miners, etc. While these may seem interesting, overall, the museum is rather boring.

The two main things that save this Museum from the dreaded “two stars and under” category are the pendulum and the first exhibit that you see that shows you how the world’s continents itself were formed and where Indiana rested on the globe in respect to say Africa, for example. There is a large lighted globe that shows a repeating movie of how Pangaea, etc. broke apart and formed the various continents present today. This is one of two must-see items in the museum. The other being the pendulum.

To properly view the pendulum, you should take the trip to the third floor where you can look down on the swinging mass from above. There are small black blocks that get knocked down as the pendulum swings, which easily exhibits how the earth rotates everyday.

Other than that, there is not much to do. While the museum tries to be interactive with touch screen monitors located frequently through the museum, overall it just seems like they are using them as filler rather than use them to portray any needed information.

The museum’s gift shop is ridiculously expensive, even by gift shop standards. However, they do have some rare items that I suppose could be considered worth the price – like certain Vera Bradley patterns on handbags and umbrellas, for instance.

Overall, if you have never been, I suppose the cheap entrance fee of $7 would make the trip worth it, I would just highly suggest not to get your hopes up too high.”

Amazing Museum! Friendly Staff! Superb Exhibits!

“The Indiana state museum knocked my socks off! The staff was very friendly and efficent [sic] which made for an excellent experience. The galleries were very clean, well maintained and very interesting. The traveling exhibits (Space and Indiana tommorow [sic]) are included with admission ($7) and were excellent. A word to the wise: don’t go in the early morning hours Monday-Friday! A rowty [sic] school group was in Space which didn’t make for a pleasent [sic] experience. The museum was wonderful and had a wonderful cafeteria with burgers, pizzas, pastas, etc. The museum is located on the canal which makes for a very pleasent [sic] walk.”

Wow! What a Great Family Museum!

“Wow! What a great place to take your kids to see and touch history! I’d give this place top marks for kids and adults anytime! For kids, it offered hands on education from a personal “passport” they could stamp at various exhibits throughout the museum to an interactive portion of EACH exhibit ranging from 18th century chores churning butter, hand cranking the energy for a time line or identifying by sight and touch various fossils at the naturalist station. Both my 10 year and 12 year old stayed interested for hours! As an adult, the multimedia presentations of continental land mass was the best I’ve ever seen. The films of various explorations of the museum accompanied by the presentation of their finds was wonderful, far beyond the range of just a local or state museum. You can also enjoy taking the nearby paddle boats at the canal at the back of the museum for a change of pace. Enjoy this museum if you are local or just traveling through Indianapolis. Its just off 65 or 70 in the center of town. We’ll be back!”

Country Music Fan?

“I could see the IMAX film ten times and still love it. My dad and aunt (both in their 70s) loved it too, even though I had to trick them and not tell them it was about country music. It is a patriotic retrospective of their entire life.
Everyone will like it, even if country isn’t exactly your thing. There is live music every day upstairs too. Fun summer escape from the heat.”

Entertainment Versus Education

“Would be nice to see Indiana museums focus more on building interesting ORIGINAL collections and instead of attempting to become amusement parks (Lord of the Rings collection? C’mon people.)”

What a Great Museum!

“What a great museum! The building itself is beautiful, and it just gets better as you enter. Wonderful exhibits and even an IMAX theatre. A fabulous way to spend a day in Indy. The grounds are beautiful, too.”

A Mixed Bag at the State Museum

“I feel a little guilty saying I don’t love the brand new (2002) Indiana State Museum. Parts of it are really likeable, but parts of it left me wanting something completely different.

I’ll begin with what I like most: the architecture! The building was designed by Hoosier Michael Graves. You may know him for his designs aimed at the mass market shoppers at Target. He designed this building to call to mind the different geographic regions of Indiana- the limestone outcroppings of the Southern part of the state, the agricultural/industrial center, and the dunes and lakes of the North.
Embedded throughout the limestone facade are ‘keystones’ depicting the personality of each of Indiana’s 92 counties. Still on the exterior, but canal-side, a visitor can take in the pedal boats or surreys from the wide pathway. Watch the little ones: there’s no barrier between them and the canal. Highlights of the interior architecture are a Foucault pendulum that transverses three stories of the building and can be viewed from above, beside, or below, thanks to a well placed clear ceiling. It’s impossible to miss Robert Indiana’s ‘INDIANA’, a vertical installation in one of the city’s grandest spaces.

On to exhibits… and there’s less to rave about. You can check out a diorama of the state’s limestone industry, a funny/scary peek at the trials of life for prehistoric Indiana wildlife, a bit on pioneer and Indian history, a bit on political history, a bit on sports history, and what seems like a lot on ‘Made in Indiana’ topics. My personal least favorite portion was the ‘Indiana’s Future’ exhibit which boiled down to a lot of multimedia flash all about bioengineering ethics. This area uses those hand held voting machines to implement an interactive video display. The most fun my husband and I had in this section was to try to vote on as many vacant seats as possible to skew the results.
Our kids were upset with our bad behavior, but we had to rebel in some small way to the very corporate agroscience environment in there.

Higher admission prices make it tough to make this a quick stop on a full Indy itinerary, but it’s definitely worth an external look just for architectural reasons.”

A Correction to “A Mixed Bag…”

“Because the author of the review “A Mixed Bag…” raved about the building’s design, it’s important to set the record straight.

The architect for the Indiana State Museum is Indianapolis’ own Ratio Architects, not Michael Graves as noted in the review. Graves was the architect for the NCAA Headquarters which resides across the canal from the museum. In fact, the State Museum placed special emphasis on utilizing Indiana-based design talent. The fact that the reviewer is so complimentary about the architecture is therefore especially gratifying!”

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