When I visit Indianapolis, Indiana, I make it a point to check out the cool museums in the area. And one of the top, even if I’m not with my daughter, is The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Yes, it’s super-highly rated by both kids and adults and has plenty of hands on activities, but there are plenty of things about it you may not know. From original movie props to one-of-a-kind features, here are 15 fun facts about The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis!
Photos courtesy of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis unless otherwise noted.
Water, Water Everywhere – Especially for Telling Time
Sure, we have clocks in our phones and on our wrists, but The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCM) wins the prize for the largest water clock in North America.
Coming in at 26 1/2 feet in height, artist Bernard Gilton was commissioned by the museum to create a piece. The clock was built and assembled in the artist’s native country of France and then disassembled and shipped to Indianapolis.
What makes up the cool timepiece? 40 blown glass pieces, 100 metal pieces, and 70 gallons of a methyl alcohol/water solution.
When Edward Black of Indianapolis was eight years and (almost) two months old, he enlisted in the Civil War as a drummer. And on July 24, 1861, he became the youngest Civil War soldier.
But what happened to the drum he carried? Along with 130,000 other artifacts, it’s kept safe and sound at TCM.
A Bumblebee of Ginormous Proportions
I’ve been on the Transformers ride at Universal Orlando Resort and it’s a fun virtual reality of an attraction. But seeing an actual prop from the “Transformers” movie is pretty cool, too.
Happily, TCM has the Autobot Bumblebee to view at the main entrance. Coming in at a hefty 2,000 pounds and standing 17 feet tall, the vibrantly-colored figure was a prominent fixture in the movie. As for what Bumblebee transformed into, for the movie it was a zippy Chevy Camaro – different from the comic books of the 1980’s where he became a Volkswagen Beetle.
In the Dinosphere, there are several beautiful skeletons of dinosaurs, both large and small. But the coolest one has a tie to the Harry Potter books.
Dracorex hogwartsia, a newly-found species of dino, looks like something out of a fairy tale. With its head covered with spikes and knobby parts, the Pachycephalosaur is unique in that fact that it’s the only one of this genus and species that’s ever been found.
Literally translating to the “Dragon King of Hogwarts”, the name is in honor of the school where Harry and his mates attend classes.
Frankly, That Tree’s an Original
The story of Adolph Hitler and his concentration camps is horrific and terrifying. And teenager, Anne Frank, and her writings shed light on the conditions that she, her family, and a few others had while hiding from the Nazis in an annex in her father’s company building.
Outside was an horse chestnut tree and a sapling from the original tree, the Remembering Tree, resides at TCM. The first sapling to be planted in America, the museum also launched a book in 2015, telling the story of Anne, her sister, and the tree.
When historical artifacts are recovered, most go to a laboratory for conservation and research. Collaborating with the Dominican Republic’s government, a 16th Century Spanish shipwrecked verso, aka small rail-mounted cannon, was sent to TCM for cleaning and repair.
Taking several years and styles of treatment methods, electrolysis was successfully used to treat and preserve the cannon. Additionally, other pieces are also conserved in the Archaeology Lab in the National Geographic Treasures of the Earth gallery.
A Century of Giggly Spinning
In 2017, the Dentzel Carousel celebrated its 100th anniversary. In a counter-clockwise motion, the hand-carved animals whirl and twirl and always bring a smile to the faces of its riders.
At TCM, a genuine Dentzel Carousel, complete with both “jumping” and stationary pieces, is located in the Carousel Wishes and Dreams area of the museum since 2000. For museum members and kiddos under thew age of two, rides are free. Not a member? A spin costs only $1.
Each October, a section of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is given a creepy, kooky Halloween-style update. Super popular, its Haunted House frequently swaps out themes, offers live actors, carnival games, and even live shows.
Hand Blown Fireworks
If you’re a fan of glass art, Dale Chihuly has undoubtedly made your radar. He, along with his team of skilled artists, have created some of this country’s most recognizable glass pieces to date.
In TCM, 3,200 pieces of Chihuly’s make up an exhibit called Fireworks of Glass. With the ability to look from below at the 43-foot tall art, the piece reminds me of a massive kaleidoscope. While the piece itself doesn’t move, a revolving seat below it does, making the whimsical beauty an ideal addition to the museum.
She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Steam Train
Instead of putting an authentic steam engine inside TCM, the museum was actually built around one. The Reuben Wells, a 35-foot long, 55-ton steam engine resides in All Aboard! and delights fans of railroads as its immersive feeling takes us all back to the late 19th Century.
Coming from Madison, Indiana, the train’s impressive in the fact that it climbed the steepest grade in the U.S.
Where Books Meet Museum
TCM is the only museum in the U.S. that has a full library on property. A branch of the Indianapolis Library System, infoZone is not only full service, it’s free.
With 300,000 visits a year, there are over 10,000 books on science, art, humanities, and history available to check out or read onsite.
If you think half a million square feet is a feat for a museum, you’re right. TCM is the largest museum of its kind in terms of size.
With a 30-acre campus, it sees over 1.3 million visitors every year. Now those are some hefty facts!
Unusual Dino Brain Activity
In Dinosphere, there’s another unusual dino: a Gorgasaurus that had a rough go in life. The poor girl suffered broken bones, a mouth infection, and bad teeth. But her most unusual feature is brain tumor.
Most likely causing pain and discomfort, scientists have reason to believe that the tumor may have contributed to the Gorgasaur’s injuries throughout her life. But, on a positive note, they also believe she had the help of her pack to get her through.
Who says that athletes can’t channel their inner artist? At TCM, you can see both art made by athletes and art in honor of them. Almost 1,000 pieces are in the Art Museum of Sport collection and select pieces are on display for guests.
Going the extra (Jurassic) Mile, TCM has uncovered and kept over 500 fossils from a dig site in 2019. So when you have 15 tons of fossils to inspect, you need a dino-sized lab to do it in.
The Paleo Prep Lab is just the place. Collecting from the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming, the lab made accommodations to house the pieces and will spend the next several years collecting data to better understand what life was like in the Jurassic Period.
Before you go: At this time, masks are required for all guests visiting TCM! Please check its official website for all of the details.