When the new mural timeline exhibit “What Happened Here” debuted in the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science in January, local designers Matt Wagner, Rachel Wambach, and Dana Samples admit they were both excited and relieved to unveil their final work.
“Anytime you try to undertake something that’s this lengthy of a process and this big, there’s a lot of pressure,” says Wagner. “We all knew that this was going to be something that was going to be a major part of the architecture of this building in a lot of ways.”
Wagner, Wambach, and Samples designed the new mural, which runs 76 feet from the end of The Eykamp Pavilion to the start of the Rivertown, U.S.A. area, as part of a grant awarded to the museum by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana. Museum employees, including curators Tom Lonnberg and Karen Malone and museum intern Leigh Eubanks, researched the history of the Evansville area before 1812, the year of the city’s founding. The timeline of the mural spans 15 billion years, including the eruption of volcanoes and the forming of settlements by European immigrants.
“We thought it would be interesting to tell why or how this spot where Evansville is evolved over the years prior to 1812,” says Lonnberg.
The museum team also relied on help from the University of Southern Indiana’s Department of Geology and Physics and Department of History, Angel Mounds State Historic Site, and other area historians to verify the data for the mural. The design team decided on the geometric-styled illustrated approach, wanting the mural to be bright, colorful, fun, and engaging, says Wagner.
“To see everyone’s faces, all the ones who hadn’t seen any of the process yet, and to see their faces light up when they saw (the mural) and actually realized the size of it … it was a great experience,” adds Samples.
Along with telling the story of Evansville before settlers arrived, the mural also provides an opportunity for visitors to touch and view rocks found in the area, and replicas of the fur and tooth of a mammoth.
“It’s been great to see the number of families who read it together,” says Malone. “I think it’s been very positive, it’s very colorful, and I’ve heard lots of great things.”
For more information about the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, call 812-425-2406 or visit evansvillemuseum.org.