ARCHIVES Madness 2022

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

The votes are in and the winner and is…

Evansville Wartime Museum

Congratulations to this year’s winner. You can see the “Coolest Artifact” at the Evansville Wartime Museum. For more information on the museum visit,

And big thank you to all of the participants: Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science, John James Audubon Museum, USI Art Collection, USI Lawrence Library, Willard Library, and Working Men’s Institute.

And thanks to everyone that voted and helped to make this year’s event another great tournament!

University Archives and Special Collections, Rice Library, 3rd floor

University Archives and Special Collections David L. Rice, USI

In the summer of 1972 the Lilly Endowment, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana awarded the then Indiana State University Evansville a three-year grant to establish an archival project for the acquisition, preservation and processing of regional material. At the end of the third year the University was to assume responsibility for continuing the growth of the Special Collections.  It started with just a few regional history books on Indiana from the library’s own collection. Today, the University Archives and Special Collection has over 850 unique collections, 800 oral history interviews, 6,500 rare and unique books, and 30,000 digital resources.

Meet the Competitors

The first entry is this hat from the Beardsley, Montgomery, and Gordon Families Collection. MSS 297.  It’s a cloche hat, a “a close-fitting hat worn by women from c. 1908 to 1930.  Its bell-like shape, which gave the hat its name, is most associated with the 1920s.”[i]  This was the era of the flapper—a young woman who pushed the boundaries of society and pushed hard.  The cloche-wearing flapper was a modern woman. (quote from Baclawski, Karen.  The Guide to Historic Costume.  London: B.T. Batsford, 1995.   General Collection GT507.B33 1995) This brown straw hat dates to 1920 and has grosgrain ribbon around the brim and surrounding the colorful decoration, which is made from bakelite.  Bakelite was the first plastic made from synthetic materials.


The second entry this “blooper” poster advertising the release of the third film in the vastly popular Star Wars series.  The original version was released March 25, 1983.  It’s from MSS 118, the Jeanne Suhrheinrich Collection.  Suhrheinrich was a long time entertainment editor for the Evansville Courier.

Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science at 411 SE Riverside Dr. 

Evansville has had a museum since 1906, with today’s location dating to the 1950s.  This appearance dates to a major update/remodel circa 2014

“The Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science houses a permanent collection of more than 30,000 objects, including fine and decorative art, as well as historic, anthropological, and natural history artifacts. Over twenty temporary, regional and international exhibitions are displayed each year in four galleries.  The Koch Immersive Theater houses a 40-foot diameter domed screen with 360-degree digital projection featuring astronomy and science programming.  Evansville Museum Transportation Center (EMTRAC) featuring transportation artifacts from the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries. On exhibit is a three-car train. The museum is home to a model train diorama of Evansville.”

The first item is this doorknob, from the infamous Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat near Berchstegaden, Germany.  It was taken in July 1945 by U.S. Army Air Corps Captain Henry J. Luerssen, who also provided a notarized document attesting to its authenticity.

The second is this letter written by Abraham Lincoln to David Turnham, a childhood friend from Spencer County, Indiana.  Written just prior to the 1860 election, Lincoln speaks of wishing to see his old friends and old home again.  Turnham was later able to provide historians with information about the assassinated president’s time in Indiana.

John M. Lawrence ’73 Library in Rm. 0119 of the Liberal Arts Center

Lawrence Library is located on the lower level in room 0119 of the Liberal Arts Center of USI’s campus. The concept for this library sprang from the friendship of Patricia (Patty) Aakhus and John M. Lawrence. The library is named for Mr. Lawrence, a graduate of USI’s class of 1973 and an international expert and collector of medieval manuscripts, for his generous support of the College of Liberal Arts. John Lawrence donated many items to the College, including a collection of medieval manuscripts as well as other artifacts, for use as a study collection for students. Patty Aakhus was an associate professor of English and served as the director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and program director in International Studies. Aakhus also published three novels based on medieval texts that she studied and translated. Patricia Aakhus served as the first caretaker of the space prior to her death in 2012. The Lawrence Library prides itself on the student leadership of the space where student archivists curate exhibitions, research manuscripts and artifacts, and participate in collections management and care.

The first entry is an etching on paper by Francisco Goya entitled “Los Caprichos: Los Chinchillas”, created in 1799.   This piece of art served as the inspiration for the vidual design of the monster character made famous by Boris Karloff in the 1931 film, Frankenstein.

The second entr is this Roman Redware Terra Sigillata Jug, circa 150 CE.  Terra sigillata clay was found in Gaul (present day France).  This jug was excavated in North Africa, once a part of the Roman empire.

John James Audubon Museum in John James Audubon State Park, 3100 US Hwy 41 North, Henderson, KY

The museum interprets the lives and work of John James Audubon and his family within a timeline of world events. Three galleries chronicle the Audubon story, including the family’s 1810-1819 residency in Henderson, Kentucky. Over 200 objects are on display, including artifacts from Audubon’s Kentucky years, a complete set of his masterwork, The Birds of America, and many original artworks.

The first entry this life-sized bronze sculpture of John James Audubon’s White Headed Eagle by Raymond Graf, completed in 2008.  The original Audubon painting was plate 31 in the Double Elephant Folio of the Birds of America.  This sculpture sits outside the museum in Henderson, KY.   Raymond Graf is a Louisville artist and graduate of Murray State University.

The second item is this hand-colored lithograph from 1851 of John Woodhouse Audubon’s painting, “Cat Stalking Bird on Bough.”  John Woodhouse was the son of John James Audubon.

University of Evansville, University Archives in Bower-Suhrheinrich Library/Clifford Memorial Library

University Archives is the repository for archival records pertaining to the history and operations of the University of Evansville.

The first entry is this English moss rose china teapot measuring 37 inches high and weighing roughly 90 pounds empty, 355 pounds filled. This teapot can hold enough tea for an estimated 850 people. The hand-painted teapot was made by Alfred Meakin of Tunstall, England in 1890. It first arrived in Evansville from England as a present to the old Ichenhauser & Sons Company on NW First Street, which claimed to be the largest glass and china dealer in the Midwest. Silas Ichenhauser was a trustee of Evansville College, and when the firm closed in 1927, he presented the teapot to the college, where it was displayed for years in the front hall of the Administration Building (now Olmsted Administration Hall).  This image, with two University of Evansville (Evansville College at the time of this photograph) students gives you a good idea of the large size of this teapot.

The second item is this Japanese mask.  It was sometimes worn on religious occasions, but more commonly by children or adults for amusement.  This white mask has a pointed nose with whiskers along it, and a red painted mouth that opens.  A string tied through the eyes holds it on the face.

Evansville Wartime Museum The EWM focuses on the manufacturing contributions made during World War II by local industries and celebrates the service of hometown and regional members of the armed forces.  It is located in a hanger near the airport, at 7503 Petersburg Rd

The first entry is “Hoosier Spirit II”, a Republic Aviation P-47 Thunderbolt.  This WWII fighter plane was manufactured in Evansville.  Republic Aviation didn’t even come to Evansville until November 1942, but it immediately geared up and by the time production ceased in mid-August 194, some 5,000 employees (about half women) had contributed 6,242 P-47 Thunderbolts to the war effort. Combat pilots loved the P-47.  It did the job, and it brought them home safely.

This specific P-47 Thunderbolt was originally developed as a trainer plane for the U.S. Air Force in May of 1945. In August of 1947, it became part of the Venezuelan Air Force and remained there for 28 years. In 1975, the plane became part of a private collection in France where it stayed for 12 years. In 1987, the plane returned to the U.S. by a private collector who had the plane for 11 years. During that time, the plane was restored and given the name of “Big Ass Bird II” after a plane from WWII. The name caused some booking problems in parts of the U.S., so it was renamed “Tarheel Hal” after another P-47 flown during WWII. In 1998, the plane became part of the collection of the Lone Star Museum in Galveston, Texas, where it remained for 22 years.  On Saturday October 17, 2020, The Evansville P-47 Foundation purchased Tarheel Hal as a symbol for all the planes produced in Evansville during WWII.  Shortly after being flown back to Indiana, the plane was renamed “Hoosier Spirit II”. Following the passing of House Bill 1197 on April 26, 2021, the Hoosier Spirit II became Indiana’s State Aircraft. It is now on display inside the Evansville Wartime Museum located at 7503 Petersburg Road, just a mile from where it was manufactured by Republic Aviation in 1944.

The second entry is the first Evansville gravestone of James Bethel Gresham. The one now standing in Locust Hill is a replacement. When it was replaced it was given to a group of disabled veterans who met at the Coliseum, and they, in turn, donated it to the museum. James Bethel Gresham (August 23, 1893 – November 3, 1917) was one of the first three American soldiers to die in World War I. He was born in Kentucky, but moved with his family to Evansville in 1901, attended Centennial School, and worked in one of the furniture factories. He died in France and was originally buried there, but in 1921 was reinterred at Locust Hill Cemetery in Evansville.

Working Men’s Institute at 407 Tavern St. in New Harmony, IN

“Established by philanthropist William Maclure in 1838, the Working Men’s Institute (WMI) set as its mission the dissemination of useful knowledge to those who work with their hands. After 170 years of continuous service, this goal is still at the heart of our mission.  Maclure, who was a business partner with Robert Owen in the communal experiment in New Harmony from 1825-1827, was devoted to the ideal of education for the common man as a means of positive change in society. At New Harmony, The Working Men’s Institute was one manifestation of this ideal.  The Working Men’s Institute in New Harmony was the first of 144 WMIs in Indiana and 16 in Illinois. It is the only one remaining. Many WMIs were absorbed by township libraries or Carnegie libraries. Yet the one in New Harmony remained.  …  Today, the WMI is a public library, a museum and an archive. In each of these areas, the WMI tries to stay true to the original mission of William Maclure.”

The first entry from WMI is a Harmonist sewing clamp.  This is a pincushion with a wooden clamp for attaching it to the edge of a table.  The outer portion of the pincushion appears to be cloth which was re-used garment fabric, an example of Harmonist frugality.  The Harmonists were a utopian group that lived in New Harmony between 1814-1825.

The second entry is the “Pat Lyon” fire engine, circa 1804.  It was made for George Rapp, leader of the Harmonists, in Philadelphia by Pat Lyon and brought to New Harmony in 1815.  This engine has been in New Harmony ever since. It is a hand power machine, the pumping may be done by eighteen men. A fire company was organized in 1848, and until 1879 the old Rapp engine was the only one used.

Willard Library at 21 N. First Ave.

Willard Library is the oldest public library building in the state of Indiana.  It was established by local businessman and philanthropist Willard Carpenter, opening its doors in 1885, two years after his death.  For the past 137 years Willard Library has maintained an excellent reputation for its local history archives and genealogy collections.

The first entry is this 1894 bride’s book/scrapbook lovingly made by Emily Orr Clifford (1866-1952) celebrating her marriage to George Clifford (1858-1927).  Clifford was a prominent businessman and citizen who was instrumental in the establishment of the University of Evansville (then Evansville College).  Emily Orr was also from a prominent family—her grandfather, Samuel Orr, was one of the first settlers of Evansville and established the Orr Iron Company.  A first cousin was Robert Dunkerson Orr, the 11th governor of Indiana, 1981-1989.

The next entry are these eyeglasses belonging to Willard Carpenter (183-1883).  The Victorian era frames feature hook temples, and are stored in a thin black sleeve-style case, here seen below the glasses. Born in Vermont, Carpenter was a local businessman and philanthropist; although he did not live to see its completion, Willard Library is his legacy to the city of Evansville.

Vote for your favorite artifact!

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