Barns are getting top billing in two current exhibits and major, statewide, long-range preservation and restoration projects. The attention is coming none too soon according to those of us who grew up on farms, still live on them or travel back roads to marvel at the structures standing in defiance of modernization and other such developments.
Shawn Spence"s photographs, "Barn Yesterday: Barns of Indiana," are on view at Conner Prairie.
"I would hope [visitors] would come and recognize that these barns of yesterday are an endangered species," says Gary Quigg, Conner Prairie"s associate director of historic resources, at the Aug. 1 exhibit opening of Shawn Spence"s photographs, Barn Yesterday: Barns of Indiana. "We"re losing them at an alarming rate. While we may not be able to preserve each, at the very least we can have a photographic record while they exist. I think with a photographic record we can both celebrate our rural heritage and hopefully promote preservation of our rural heritage." "Basketball, barns and bridges are part of our distinctive Hoosier heritage," commented Spence, who explains he covered every corner of the state but not every county. "The thing that struck me most is the stillness and serenity around barns," he mused. "There are these treasures sitting alone, as different as can be from bridges, with their constant traffic." Spence photographed bridges for Conner Prairie a few years ago. He says people often would refer him to a neighbor"s barn, pointing out distinctive qualities and insisting he go out to photograph it. Over the next several years, Conner Prairie will be moving and restoring two representative structures to its grounds: the 1876 Gascho Pennsylvania German Barn and the 1902 Sears Round Barn, photographs of which can be seen at the Barn Yesterday exhibit. Barn Yesterday"s opening image shows the way these buildings span generations in Indiana: A legend is lettered high above the barn door to ensure space for succeeding names. It reads: A.C King 1923 / T.A. King 1957 / M.T. King 1986. "Barns are a symbol of rural America," notes Dr. Nancy Conner, who has been coordinating yet another program aimed at recognizing these iconic structures. Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon is a touring exhibition mounted by the Smithsonian and sponsored here by The Indiana Humanities Council for a 10-month statewide tour. "To traditional farmers, barns are the soul of the farm," she notes. But changing times necessitate changing uses of barns comments Scott Zimmerman, who oversees the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana"s "Barn Project." Since the late 1970s, HLFI, in concert with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, has had an ongoing survey in process to identify historic properties, of which barns are one aspect. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana administers a program to recognize and honor old farmsteads. This annual award draws attention to an "outstanding example of a family-owned historic farmstead which has retained its historic agricultural structures in day to day farming." First lady Judy O"Bannon will award the John Arnold Rural Preservation Award on Aug. 14 at 9:55 a.m., at the Indiana State Fair grandstand. Information: Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon. The Smithsonian"s touring exhibit, until Aug. 18 at the Center for Agricultural Science & Heritage, 1201 E. 38th St., directly across from the Indiana State Fairgrounds. For full-color descriptive exhibit brochures contact Dr. Nancy Conner at the Indiana Humanities Council, 638-1500, ext. 128 or log onto www.ihc4u.org (then go to BarnAgain link). Barn Yesterday: Barns of Indiana. Conner Prairie"s special exhibit of Shawn Spence"s photos of barns of every type, until Nov. 10 in the Johnson-Weaver Gallery. Call 776-6000 or log on www.connerprairie.org. Book signing and program by Donald Scott, author of Barns of Indiana, at Conner Prairie, Aug. 25 at 2 p.m. "Barns of Indiana Poster" produced by Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana is available by calling 639-4534 or log onto www.historiclandmarks.org. Also contact HLFI for information on preservation and restoration assistance, routes to traverse to see and visit barns and general information about Indiana barns.