For More Details
For more information about “Barn Again!” and related programs in Indiana, contact the Indiana Humanities Council at (800) 675-8897, (317) 638-1500 or

Tour Schedule
Eight sites in Indiana were
selected to host “Barn Again!”; three exhibition dates have already passed. The five remaining dates and locations are as follows:

• April 21–May 19:
Huddleston Farmhouse
Inn Museum, Cambridge
City, Ind.; (765) 478-3172
• May 26–June 24:
Swiss Heritage Village,
Berne, Ind.; (219) 589-8007, (219) 589-8199 or
• July 1–31: Jefferson County Historical Society, Madison, Ind.; (219) 589-8007 or
(219) 589-8199 or
• Aug. 7–18:
Indiana State Fair— Center
for Agricultural Science
and Heritage, Indianapolis; (317) 925-2410 or

A national exhibition touting the cultural significance of barns brings its message to Indiana this spring and summer.

Published: Mar/Apr 2002 (Home & Away magazine)
By Gary Peterson

The unique architecture of America’s barns, such as this round barn near Nappanee, Ind., is celebrated in “Barn Again!”
remember the ache of anticipation as we turned off the highway in southern North Dakota and headed down the gravel road. My sister and I would lean against the window looking for the first sign of our uncle’s farm. Then, there it’d be— the huge red barn abutting a pasture of waving grass.

Being city kids, we knew that when we saw the barn, we were in a different place. After the requisite hugs and kisses of greeting were exchanged, sis and I were off to explore the barn. Chickens sprinted out of our way as we rushed to the big, sliding door. Once inside, we tried to catch the feral cats, climbed to the hayloft to survey the farmstead from a higher vantage and reveled in the wonder of our family’s rustic retreat.

This was a part of America that most kids don’t get to see. Many modern children grow up thinking that the supermarket is the farm. They don’t know about and have never seen the work that goes into feeding the nation and the world.

A learning experience

That’s precisely why the Indiana Humanities Council is sponsoring “Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon” on a tour of the Hoosier State during 2002.

“As more of us and our children live in cities and suburbs, a tie to our past is being lost,” said Nancy Cooper, director of grants and education for the Indiana Humanities Council. “Our friends at the Historic Landmarks Foundation are working to preserve barns and rural buildings and, with them, their unique architecture and history.

“Barns are not just buildings; they are symbols of a way of life—part of every American’s heritage.”

The barn’s relevance as a cultural emblem is reinforced by “Barn Again!,” which was developed as a traveling exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution. Specially designed for easy transport and erection in smaller towns and museums, “Barn Again!” explores the architecture of barns and looks at the origins and the fate of the barn, as it pertains to use as a warehouse, factory and its role as a representative of a society. For instance, traditional barns no longer are able to house the massive farm machinery of today or store the mountainous harvests farmers bring in.

In addition to sharing the importance of barns, the exhibition also serves as a stimulus for the communities it visits. “Barn Again!” typically stops in towns with populations of 20,000 or less with the intent to reach particular demographics and stimulate local efforts to boost museums’ abilities to serve their cities.

“It is our first ever opportunity to touch rural America directly,” said Ann R. Cohn, former director of the Smithsonian Institution, “enabling local cultural groups to invigorate their own communities by discovering their heritage, inspiring community pride and establishing exciting collaborations among grassroots organizations.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, Indiana first lady Judy O’Bannon declared 2002 as the Year of the Barn in the state, stating that barns are a “classic expression of the Hoosier landscape.”

Each of the states comprising America’s agricultural heartland can attach similar attributes to the barns dotting their landscapes, and it’s the message shared by the “Barn Again!” exhibition. It’s also the reason that the exhibition has been so successful as it toured other states, often bringing a record number of visitors to small local museums.

Collateral events also occur in tandem with the exhibition, such as barn restorations and architecture projects. Other events and activities, such as lectures, historical farm re-creations, music festivals and petting zoos have been organized with “Barn Again!” in mind.

Reflecting culture

The exhibition itself revolves around themes that introduce the barn-as-icon imagery, explain the functional roles of barns, analyze the change in size and shape of barns and address the future of barns. There also is an architectural scale of an English barn, as well as examples of building materials such as nails, roofing and a mortise and tenon joint. Popular culture items, such as toys, videos, books, plates, lunchboxes and food packaging, are on display, illustrating the barn’s pervasive public presence.

Gary Peterson is an associate editor of Home & Away.

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