For many folks when asked, “What museums are there in Hancock County?” They immediately think of the Riley Boyhood Home and Museum on Main Street in Greenfield. However, there is another historic treasure located just east of the Riley Home on Main Street, and it has an even more broader story to tell about Hancock County than just Riley.
The Hancock County Historical Society is actually located in two buildings: The Old Log Jail Museum and the Chapel in the Park Museum. Both of these buildings are located in the southeast corner of Riley Park at the corner of Apple and Main Street (technically 26 and 28 Apple St). However, if you were to mail anything to the HCHS – that goes to PO Box 375, Greenfield, IN 46140.
The HCHS is really a relatively young organization when you look at other historical societies in nearby counties. Founded in 1965, the HCHS didn’t even have a place to call home. However, eventually they acquired two buildings. First, the Old Log Jail was moved from South Street in 1967 to Riley Park, and then the Philadelphia Church was moved in 1981 to become the Chapel in the Park Museum. Both buildings house artifacts that date to Hancock County’s earliest history through the modern era. The collection is entirely based on donations – so it is limited in scope (they don’t have everything old). A visitor will find a variety of items: mastodon fossils, Native American projectile points, pioneer era implements and household items, military memorabilia from the Civil War, World War I and World War II, Hancock County business ephemera – signs, brochures and marketing pieces; clothing (Victorian bridal gowns, military uniforms, school cords, etc); toys, photographs, and much, much more.
Most of these items are on display in the basement gallery in the Chapel in the Park Museum. There the artifacts can be appropriately protected from light as well as extremes in temperature. The HCHS is proud to have worked with the Indiana State Museum and the Indiana Historical Society in order to facilitate appropriate museum best practices for the handling and preservation of artifacts. They also have a computerized catalog system that they are actively working to up date, especially the back log of older paper records. The goal is to have the entire collection catalogued and digitized.
The HCHS does most of their work with a cadre of museum volunteers (their only paid staff is the summer tour guides and the president who receives a small stipend). These volunteers serve in a variety of capacities – helping with cataloging artifacts; event planners and workers; researchers; writers; marketing; facility rentals; facility maintenance and repairs. Much of this work is done by HCHS board members; however, there are several non-board members who assist on a variety of tasks on a regular basis. If you would like to volunteer – you can find out more about this on the HCHS website.
The HCHS mission is to “collect, preserve and interpret the history of Hancock County Indiana. They are a 501c3 not-for-profit, and they are dependent upon fund raising for most of their income. You can support the HCHS by becoming a member. The membership form is on their website. As a member, you will get invited to exclusive members only events, and will receive the members only HCHS newsletter, “The Log Chain.”
The HCHS does host a variety of events throughout the year. Some involve speakers who give informative talks on certain subjects. Other times, they host larger events – sometimes even offsite. In the past, this has included milk can dinners, Sammy Terry shows, barn and log cabin tours, and many other events. The HCHS is VERY active. Check out their event calendar for an upcoming schedule.
In fact, you will be able to find the Hancock County Historical Society in the pioneer building at this year’s Hancock County 4-H fair. You can get membership forms; find out how you can become a volunteer; get information about artifact donation; or buy a book or a calendar from the HCHS gift shop.
The Hancock County Historical Society is open Saturdays & Sundays Noon – 5pm during the months of April – October. Group tours (including school tours) may be scheduled during the week, in the evening or during off season by appointment only. They are closed Monday – Friday, and for major holidays. They permanently close for the season November – March (but can accommodate some group tours during those months). You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, or check out their website at http://hancockhistory.org/
Did you know that you can rent the HCHS Chapel in the Park Museum for weddings and other events? The Chapel in the Park makes a beautiful, small, intimate, setting for couples on a budget or ones who don’t care for big ceremonies. Or, if you need a space for a small gathering for an organizational meeting, or other event – consider the Chapel in the Park as a possibility. It does seat 80 people, and has a kitchen with limited facilities (no stove, but a small refridgerator, sink and microwave). Please contact the HCHS to get more information about how you can book your wedding or meeting at the Historic Chapel in the Park. Rental rates are very affordable.
Sources: Hancock County Historical Society website, and Facebook page.
–by Brigette Cook Jones, Executive Director Hancock County Tourism and Visitor Center
To stay up to date on everything in Hancock County, be sure you are receiving Hancock County Tourism’s weekly e-newsletter. You can register on the website at www.visitinhancock.org