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Summer Quest: A Safari In One's Own Backyard

Ahhh… summer! A time when life in a college town slows down a little, and year-round residents might be open to something different.

Add to that equation a group of arts organizations looking to gain traction with locals and summer visitors and voilà ! It's the Alliance of Bloomington Museums' Summer Quest, now in its second year.

A Hunt Through Summer

The Summer Quest scavenger hunt takes participants from cultural institutions with the word 'museum' in their name to other venues whose accessibility might not be so readily apparent. It's a chance to uncover the wonders of the worldfrom the animal to the vegetable to the mineral-without ever leaving the comforts of Bloomington.

At the Indiana Geological Survey, for example, "there's not one breathtaking, huge dinosaur, but there are small vignettes," says research scientist Nelson Shaffer. "You can come in here and get a smattering of knowledge."

"Bloomington has a really vibrant museum community," adds Judy Kirk, Assistant Director of Indiana University's Mathers Museum of World Cultures. "There are so many different kinds of museums – small and large – that have a wide range of appeal, from art and history to science."

Charting The Way

A treasure map with clues provides incentive for tourists and Bloomingtonians alike to visit the venues. Its answers may be found at each of the twelve participating institutions. Surprisingly enough, locals can be somewhat hard to reach during the summer.

"We have a lot of families that visit us during the year," Kirk explains. "But sometimes you don't visit what's in your own backyard."

It is the very mission not only of the Mathers Museum, but also of the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center (Indiana University's botanic garden, which is another stop on the Summer Quest) to encourage visitors' awareness that what's in their own backyards – or living rooms – is culture too.

Hilltop's director Greg Speichert delights in surprising visitors with the unlikely plants he can grow in south-central Indiana, from artichokes to pineapples to indigo. He's equally thrilled to show a gardening 'virgin' that it's not that complicated to grow tomatoes.

The Venues

The list of museums participating in the 2010 Summer Quest includes:

  • Hilltop Garden and Nature Center
  • The Hinkle-Garton Farmstead Historic Site
  • The Indiana Geological Survey
  • The Indiana University Archives
  • The IU Art Museum
  • The Kinsey Institute
  • The Lilly Library
  • The Mathers Museum of World Cultures
  • The Monroe County History Center
  • SoFA Gallery
  • WonderLab
  • Wylie House Museum

According to the Alliance, prizes include a stay at a local bed and breakfast, toys, a DVD package complete with a copy of the film Hoosiers, and more.

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