Chesterton Tribune



Dunes outdoor fun 100 years ago is theme of Township History Museum exhibit

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Picture watching 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.

The current 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.

Costello, Digital 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 drives allowed.

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 added.

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 tubing.

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 house.

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.

Some objects 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.



Posted 1/12/2018




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