the sun rise from a tree stand, bundling up and preparing tackle to fish for
lake trout, strapping on snowshoes or skis to venture into the Dunes, or the
uncertainty that you’ll stay upright careening down a sand dune on a bike.
If this sounds fun to you, you may have a lot in common with Duneland
residents of a hundred years ago.
temporary exhibit at the Westchester Township History Museum is “Do the
Dunes: Outdoor Adventures & Recreation.” A park ranger at Indiana Dunes
National Lakeshore who volunteers with the Museum gave Curator Serena Ard
the idea to trace the history of the outdoor adventures people enjoy in the
Dunes. Ard says she finds it interesting to look back on subsistence
activities that are now done for leisure and imagine what people of the past
would think of the fisherman who braves the cold winds off Lake Michigan or
the hunter who spends winter in a duck blind for fun more than for food.
Visitors can peer
into glass cases to see fragile paper and cloth artifacts such as guides to
the Dunes trails and early twentieth century swimsuits. Photos and
descriptions of outdoor life in Duneland are accompanied by captions that
explain how each activity has evolved over centuries. Museum Registrar Joan
Costello said it was Ard’s idea to connect the past and present.
Costello also noted
that many of pieces in the Museum are on loan from the Dunes National
Lakeshore and Saint Mary of the Woods College. “The National Lakeshore
doesn’t have an exhibit space. This one was definitely a collaborative
effort, and I think Serena prides herself on the fact that we do
collaborative exhibits,” she said.
Archive Assistant Melissa Durkin, and Ard all agreed a 118-year-old bicycle
is their favorite piece in the recreation exhibit. The bike is mounted on
the wall in the exhibit space, and looks eerily similar to a modern
10-speed--slim tires, a trapezoid frame, high seat, and downturned handles.
Wooden tire rims and no brakes are two key design differences, so no test
Steering was also
unreliable in this design. According to Ard, when this style of bike became
popular, serious injuries and deaths from operating it were fairly common.
“I don’t know that I could ride this bike without hurting myself,” she
The bike belonged
to Roy Hubbard, a New York Central Railroad employee who moved to Chesterton
in 1895. He reportedly rode it to work every day and even rode it down sand
dunes at what would become the Dunes National Lakeshore without incident.
The bike is intact, except the front tire is without the original rubber
Ard and the Museum
Staff go about collecting artifacts for permanent display and temporary
exhibits in several ways. Donations are taken, and sometimes they will
advertise for specific items. An ad calling for materials for a 2012 special
exhibit greatly expanded the Museum’s inventory of WWII artifacts, including
ration books, military uniforms and medals, and letters. The bike is on loan
from Deborah and Gary Beard.
There are a few
requirements for donating items. The Museum is not equipped to refurbish or
restore anything, so items must not be in disrepair. Artifacts must be
connected to the Duneland area, or be from the Victorian Era to match the
Along with the
temporary exhibits, the museum has permanent displays outlining the history
of Duneland from the present day all the way to prehistory. There are large
timelines describing the evolution of education and religion in Duneland and
sections for how residents felt the effects of each major war.
visitors can see include WWII ration books, products of the Chesterton China
factory, books by local authors, Frank Dudley’s camera, and the fossilized
leg of a mastodon--the rest of which is at the Porter County Museum.
“Do the Dunes”
closes Jan 21. The next exhibit opens in early February and will feature the
photography of Dave Larson. That exhibit will feature some images of lost
sand dunes and landscapes that no longer exist due to industrial
development. The Museum, at 700 W. Porter Ave. in Chesterton, is open from 1
to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.