Indiana Must Plan Now for a Quality Bicentennial

January 18, 2010

For release noon Jan. 19 and thereafter (891 words with optional trim to 670)

Ohio, the last state to mark a bicentennial, spent a decade on planning and poured $16 million of taxpayer money into an elaborate year-long celebration in 2003. Among the highlights: painting bicentennial logos on barns in all 88 counties, a Tall Stacks riverboat party on the Ohio River and publication of a series of books on Ohio history. Politicians, schools and historical associations had roles under the leadership of a bicentennial commission funded by the legislature. By all accounts, their bicentennial was a huge success.
The moral of this story? Indiana needs to step up planning for our bicentennial celebration in 2016. Although a preliminary effort is underway headed by State Archivist Jim Corridan, it will need statutory authority from the legislature, a formal defining of roles among the state’s disconnected history-related agencies and an infusion of tax dollars.
“We’re proceeding fine,” reports Corridan who acknowledges that “at some point a more formal organization” will be necessary. For now, his Historic Collaborations Group is working to produce a specialty license plate in 2011 whose proceeds would help fund the bicentennial. Hiring a staff person would be a priority.
The challenge is to create a coordinated planning process that avoids duplication of effort and energy. That’s no easy task considering six different agencies of Indiana government are involved with historic sites, records or preservation. Legislation to put them under a single roof has not advanced in the past and won’t be considered again until 2011 at the soonest. In the meantime, Corridan has brought together as many state and not-profit folks as he can to offer input.
What would an appropriate celebration look like? And what entity is best suited to claim the planning process? Those are pressing decision that cannot wait long.  A survey by The Indiana Policy Review elicited a variety of answers and good ideas.

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Of course, quality ideas won’t implement themselves but require careful planning over a period of years. Ohio spent 10 years and millions of dollars getting ready. Indiana needs to bite the bullet and do the same.

Andrea Neal is a teacher at St. Richard’s School in Indianapolis and adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Contact her at


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