The Dubois County Museum: How Indiana’s largest county museum is embracing diversity through humanities programming

Day in and day out, Indiana Humanities’ grantees and partners are bringing the humanities to life for Hoosiers across the state. From small towns like Jasper to big cities like…

Day in and day out, Indiana Humanities’ grantees and partners are bringing the humanities to life for Hoosiers across the state. From small towns like Jasper to big cities like Fort Wayne, our grantees are creating thoughtful programs, bridging divides and inspiring Hoosiers to think, read and talk. As part of our ongoing efforts to uplift the work of our partners, we’re highlighting past and present grantees and sharing their stories of impact.  

As a second-generation Mexican-American Hoosier, I know firsthand just how important representation is for creating inclusivity and belonging in our cultural institutions. That’s why I’m especially glad to introduce the subject of this month’s grantee spotlight, the Dubois County Museum. 

Last fall I had the pleasure of attending the museum’s Voces Vivas program, which brought the local Latino community together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and included a panel discussion featuring local Latino high school students who discussed themes like education, community and identity. Over 100 individuals and families attended the event, many of who had never visited the museum. Members of the non-Latino community also participated to learn about Latino culture. Seeing these different communities come together over a shared experience was truly inspiring and a testament to the power of the humanities in helping to create connections.  

The Dubois County Museum, founded in August 1999, is one of the largest county museums in Indiana, holding more than 56,000 items and welcoming 12,000 visitors each year. The museum hosts a variety of rotating exhibits, highlighting topics such as regional history, German heritage, agriculture, military, sports, woodworking and more. The museum also schedules special events, including presentations by guest speakers, and it offers unique educational opportunities for school-aged students, including a wildlife room and mural tours that explore the history of different communities in Dubois County.  

While the history and artifacts hosted inside the museum have long represented the residents of Dubois County, especially their strong German heritage, the region’s growing Latino population created an opportunity for museum staff and local partners to collaborate on a contemporary project meant to reflect the culture and heritage of Dubois County’s fasting-growing demographic. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the Latino population of Dubois County experienced the largest growth increase of any racial or ethnic group between 2010 and 2020. As of July 1, 2022, the county’s total population was more than 42,000, and Latinos accounted for 9 percent of that total.  

Recognizing this change, the Dubois County Museum, Latino Collaboration Table, Association of Latin Americans in Southern Indiana, Southwest Dubois School Corporation and Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools partnered to develop a series of public programs to celebrate and commemorate Latino culture. Using funding from an Indiana Humanities Collaboration Grant, the organizations hosted several public events, including a celebration of Día de los Muertos and Las Posadas, two culturally significant Latin American holidays. They also worked together to install a permanent exhibit inside the museum alongside the German heritage section. The exhibit features culturally relevant artifacts and items from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Honduras and El Salvador, along with a digital component featuring stories from local families. The program I attended last fall was part of the museum’s efforts to launch this dynamic new exhibit. 

The museum’s efforts to offer inclusive programming, serve diverse constituents and build effective partnerships have seen results. “These programs brought in residents of the community who had never before stepped foot inside the museum,” said Julia Flynn, board treasurer at the Dubois County Museum. “Indiana Humanities’ [Collaboration] grant made this possible, and without it we would not have been able to do such broad outreach into the community to promote each of these events.” 

Although Indiana Humanities’ partnership with the Dubois County Museum is relatively new, it serves as an excellent example of how our grantmaking is helping communities and local organizations design and implement collaborative projects that inspire, educate and create meaningful connections. 

To learn more about the museum and to plan a trip, visit their website.