Crossroads of Art, Education, and Geology in New Harmony, Indiana: A New Exhibit at the Working Men’s Institute


  • William S. Elliott, Jr. Department of Geology and Physics, University of Southern Indiana


education, geology, New Harmony, sketching, William Maclure, Indiana


The Working Men’s Institute (WMI) in New Harmony is the oldest continuously operating public library in Indiana. WMI was established in 1838 by William Maclure, "Father of American Geology," to establish a common place for people to further their knowledge and education. The concept of a combined library and museum evolved from Maclure’s emphasis on education, and in particular, the Pestalozzian method. A new exhibit at the WMI entitled "New Harmony: Crossroads of Geology" was completed in August 2014. The exhibit displays a reproduction of the 1818 geologic map of the eastern United States compiled by William Maclure. Panels in the exhibit also highlight the evolution of the geologic time scale, localities near New Harmony significant to early scientific studies, and contributions of David Dale Owen, Richard Owen, and Edward Cox to westward expansion of the United States in the early 19th century. Moreover, panels in the exhibit highlight modern studies in southern Indiana, such as seismic monitoring of the Wabash Valley Fault Zone and flooding hazards of the Wabash River. In addition to the exhibit, fossil and mineral kits for use by K–12 teachers are available from the WMI. Activities planned with the kits include: sketching, building models, conducting hands-on experiments, and identifying fossil and mineral specimens. These applied approaches are aligned with teaching methods championed by Maclure. Furthermore, the new exhibit follows the educational tradition of the WMI established by Maclure in 1838.






Earth Science