Happy 200th, Indiana

Whether you studied Hoosier history as a fourth grader or you arrived here long after elementary school, there are plenty of options for celebrating Indiana’s bicentennial. Here’s a sample of events, places and books to explore in 2016.

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1 Presidential Places

In addition to President Lincoln, Indiana is home to William Henry Harrison, Indiana’s first appointed governor (1800–1812) and president for 31 days (March 4–April 4, 1841). His home, Grouseland, all 300 acres of it, includes the first brick house built in the Indiana territory. Harrison’s grandson, in addition to being a Civil War general and a prominent Indianapolis attorney, was elected the 23rd president of the United States (1889–1893). The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is home to various exhibits and events, including naturalization ceremonies and historical reenactments.

2 Run, Hoosiers!

More than 1,800 local heroes, volunteers and special contributors to the community, followed closely by a Mobile Visitors Center, will traverse all 92 counties in the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay over five weeks, ending with a grand finale at the Indiana State Capitol on October 15. Torchbearers will walk, run and even ride watercraft, farm equipment, a racecar, horse and wagon, antique automobile and other modes of transportation that symbolize Hoosier heritage. (Various locations around the state starting September 9; Indiana State Capitol, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, October 15.)

3 Underground Railroad

When abolitionist Levi Coffin and his wife lived in the “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad” in what was then called Newport, they helped more than 2,000 slaves, including the inspiration for the character Eliza in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, on their way to freedom in Canada. In October, the Levi Coffin State Historic Site, will open a new visitor center next door. The new structure was designed to resemble the home of the Coffins’ neighbor, Jediah Price, as it did in the 1830s. The visitor center will include exhibit space, a library and a theater.

4 Book It

Real-life characters who have molded the state’s history since 1816 are featured in the new book Indiana’s 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State (edited by Linda Gugin and James E. St. Clair). Crack it open for a biographical directory of 200 major movers and shakers.

5 Living History

The exhibit 1816: Indiana Joins the Nation is the latest entry in the “You Are There” series at the Indiana History Center, where major historical moments come to life. First, you’ll step through an image of the cover of the 1816 Indiana State Constitution, projected onto a fine screen of mist. Then you’ll enter a room in Corydon, where debates are taking place among Hoosier delegates to the Constitutional Convention about how to shape the future of this young state. Actors will stage a series of vignettes, sometimes even pulling visitors into the conversation. An interactive touchscreen invites you to vote on issues such as education, personal liberty and the balance of power—themes that still resonate today.

6 Bright Beginning

Thirteen years before Indiana became a state, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began their expedition west to the Pacific Ocean and back. They started the journey in what is now Clarksville. The site is marked by the Lewis and Clark Statue, When They Shook Hands, at Falls of the Ohio State Park.

7 A Capitol Idea

Before Indianapolis became the state’s current capital, Corydon was the seat of state government from 1813 to 1825. Today, visitors to the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site can see the preserved trunk of the Constitution Elm, where the first state constitution was drafted in June 1816; the Capitol Building, built from limestone from nearby quarries; and other spots of historical interest.

8 All Aboard!

The Indiana Bicentennial Train made its first appearance at the 2015 Indiana State Fair, and returns there this year, August 5–21. Climb into the three air-conditioned boxcars, which have been turned into galleries to display The Next Indiana—a look at the state’s past, present and future through the lenses of four themes: transportation, land use, talent and community. Several hundred images from the Indiana Historical Society’s archives show historical and contemporary visuals. What will come next?

9 Lincoln’s Legacy

The year 1816 marked the birth of Indiana as a state, but it’s also when future president Abraham Lincoln, then 7 years old, moved to southern Indiana from Kentucky with his family. At the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, you can see a living historical farm that recreates what life was like on the frontier in the 1820s, look at Honest Abe-related artifacts in the visitor center and appreciate nature on one of four hiking trails. Aficionados of our 16th president should also visit the Indiana State Museum, home to the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection: a plethora of Lincoln ephemera, such as books, photos, personal possessions and signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.