5 museums you might not know about in northeast Indiana

Museums have the power to educate, entertain, inspire, and surprise.

While you might think you've seen it all in the Fort Wayne area, there’s more to northeast Indiana's museum scene than meets the eye.

Here are five eclectic regional museums you might not know about.

1. Greater Fort Wayne Aviation Museum

You’ve likely been to the Fort Wayne International Airport, but did you know it contains a museum, too? Located on the second floor, the Greater Fort Wayne Aviation Museum showcases aviation in the tri-state area, featuring military, commercial, and general aviation. The museum brings the romance of aviation to life through historic details of the old Baer Field and memories of Fort Wayne in the 40's and 50's.

Note: Due to Transportation Security Administration security regulations, the museum is only open to passengers who have cleared the Security Checkpoint or to those on a museum tour.

Tours are free and last about an hour and a half. Reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance and can be scheduled by calling (260) 747-4146 ext. 433 during regular business hours. 

2. Chief Richardville House
Fort Wayne is rich in Native American history and heritage, and the Chief Richardville House is a testament to that. 

Since 1991, the Fort Wayne History Center has served as the steward for the 1827 Chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville House in Fort Wayne. According to Executive Director Todd Pelfrey, the house at 5705 Bluffton Rd. is recognized as the oldest Native American structure in the Midwest, the oldest home in northeast Indiana, the first Greek Revival style house in Indiana, and the only existing Treaty House in the nation.  

The Chief Richardville House represents a chapter in Fort Wayne's Miami history.
“In 2012, the Chief Richardville House became only the second National Historic Landmark in Allen County," Pelfrey says. “Hence, the Chief Richardville House is the History Center’s most important asset for sharing our region’s incredible Native American history, culture, and art. Through the setting and context of the Chief Richardville House and the diverse cultural arts presentations of the Miami Indian Heritage Days series, the public is furnished with an unparalleled touchstone to this powerful history and heritage.”

The museum is open to the public from 1-4 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month, May-November. A guided tour of the house is also included. Admission is $7 for adults, and $5 for seniors or youth age 3-7. It’s free for members and children under age 3.

3. Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Museum

The Party Shop in Warsaw is in the business of spreading cheer through a collection of keepsakes, but you might not know that it's home to a museum, too. 

The Ornament museum has over 4000 Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments including, miniature, lighted, Easter, Halloween & Collectors Club Ornaments.“We have a very unique museum in our 12,000-square foot Hallmark store,” says curator David Hamrick. “We have one of every Hallmark ornament made since 1973 on display in glass cases in our store. Over 5,000 ornaments (are) on display. It is a fun, free place for families, church groups, and collectors to visit.”

The Party Shop and museum are located at 3418 Lake City Hwy in Warsaw, and open 7 days a week. Call (574) 267-8787 for more information. 

4. Karpeles Manuscript Library

The Karpeles Manuscript Library, on the South side of Fort Wayne, provides a glimpse into history via priceless, sometimes famous documents that are shared and rotated among the museum’s network across the U.S. The archives contain manuscripts related to literature, science, religion, history, and art. Among its treasures are the original draft of the Bill of Rights and Einstein's famous formula, " E=Mc2.”

The Karpeles Manuscript Library preserves the largest private collection of original manuscripts in the world through its network. The museum was founded in 1983 by David Karpeles and Marsha Karpeles who created the museum to stimulate interest in learning, especially among children. All of its exhibits are free.

“Our primary goal is to share the vast collection of historical documents in Dr. Karpeles' collection and to share the need for documentation retention and historical clarity, no matter how painful,” says Al Brothers III, the Fort Wayne museum’s director.

The Karpeles Manuscript Library at 3039 Piqua Ave.

In his opinion, the museum does a great service in that it challenges people’s paradigms. “A person has to put aside their current positions on everything and take a step back to truly appreciate both the vast collections of documents and the fact of how the documents and the people involved in them affected their future and our present.”

The Fort Wayne Karpeles Museum started in 2008 with the Piqua Hall location (at 3039 Piqua Ave).  Piqua houses their rotating collection of original maps. Fairfield Hall (at 2410 Fairfield) contains a rotating collection of original documents. Each exhibit will be at the Fairfield Hall for approximately four months (January-April/May-August/September-December). 

The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call (260) 456-6929.

5. Mid-America Windmill Museum

Windmills are synonymous with Americana, and the Mid-America Windmill Museum in Kendallville is dedicated to preserving wind power’s legacy. 

There are 52 restored windmills on exhibit in the museum barn or outside on the museum grounds. Visitors are also invited to engage with the museum through video presentations, guided tours, exhibits, interactive displays, photographs, and a museum library.

The Mid-America Windmill Museum is open April through November. Hours are Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children/students. Children age 6 and under are free. Call (260) 347-2334 for more information. 

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.
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