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Jun 7, 2019

(May 25, 2019 ) For nine years beginning in 1980, Mark Kesling was director of science for the renowned Children's Museum of Indianapolis. From 1993 to 2006, Mark was the academic director at Orchard School, a private school on the northside of Indianapolis.

Not only did both institutions date back to the 1920s, Mark noticed, but they were initiated by the same group of visionary women.

Indianapolis civic leader Mary Stewart Carey, who is credited with launching the Children's Museum. Courtesy Indianapolis Children's Museum."If New York City-area children can have a free museum just for them . . . Why shouldn't the children of Indianapolis?" asked Mary Stewart Carey, a civic leader credited with launching the Children's Museum. In 1924, she had visited the Brooklyn Children's Museum.

Mrs. Carey and several other women on the initial board of trustees of the Children's Museum also were members of the Progressive Education Association of Indianapolis. It met in 1922 to begin planning what became Orchard School, an elementary school (now K-8) founded to emphasize individualized instruction and learning through children's direct interactions with their environment.

To share details about these 1920s-era women civic leaders and their vision, Mark Kesling joins Nelson as his studio guest.

Mark is the founder and CEO of The daVinci Pursuit, a non-profit organization that uses art to engage the community in science education opportunities. He also is the co-host, with Jill Ditmire, of She Says Art, He Says Science, the program on WICR-FM (88.7) that follows Hoosier History Live at 1 pm on Saturdays.

In addition to discussing the women civic leaders of the 1920s who helped launch the Children's Museum and Orchard School, Mark and Nelson time-travel to 1916 to explore another cultural initiative of women that endures to this day. Inspired by the state's Centennial celebrations in 1916, women civic leaders initiated a contest to design the Indiana state flag. The winning entry, designed by Mooresville-based artist Paul Hadley, remains the state flag more than 100 years later.

The North Meridian Street mansion that served as the home of the Children's Museum for 20 years beginning in 1927. The building was the former home of civic leader Mary Stewart Carey, who helped launch the museum. Courtesy Indianapolis Children's Museum.In 1925, the initial home of the Children's Museum was the carriage house of the Propylaeum, 1410 N. Delaware St., a women's advocacy organization. In addition to women civic leaders such as Edith Whitehill Clowes and Elizabeth Browning, former director of the Indianapolis Public Library, influential figures in the early years of the Children's Museum included architect Kurt Vonnegut Sr., the father of the future novelist.

Mary Stewart Carey (1859-1938) was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Indianapolis Garden Club, both of which, at her initiative, were involved in the movement to adopt an Indiana state flag. Mrs. Carey, in fact, helped select the winning design.

For 20 years beginning in 1927, her former mansion at 1150 N. Meridian Street served as the home of the Children's Museum.

Orchard School, which began with 20 students, also was initially located in the large house of a founding family. During the 1950s, Orchard moved to its current site on about 43 wooded acres at 615 W. 64th Street.

Some history facts:

  • Mrs. Carey's daughter, Mary Carey Appel, served on the first board of trustees of the Children's Museum. Mrs. Appel also was an organizer of the Progressive Education Association.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Booth Tarkington, author of The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) and Alice Adams (1921), was Mrs. Carey's first cousin.
  • Orchard School's history is described in the book The Path Well Chosen (1984) by Caterina Cregor. The history of the Children's Museum is chronicled in Keep An Eye on That Mummy (1984) by Nancy Kriplen.