The American cornfields that stretch on for miles have a story to tell. It’s a story that starts more than 10,000 years ago in the heart of Mexico and weaves itself inextricably throughout the history of humankind and into our modern-day lives.
Today, it takes 25 corn plants per person per day to support the American way of life. From sweeteners to plastics, fuel to textiles, corn is a part of everyday life for nearly all of us. Just how did humans come to be so dependent on corn? That’s the story the Indiana State Museum will tell in its exhibit, "Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn," opening September 24, 2011.
"Amazing Maize" will take visitors on a journey through the centuries, beginning with corn’s unlikely origins in a small-eared bushy plant called teosinte. Visitors will trace the global spread of the crop following Christopher Columbus’ travels, including its social impact in Africa and Europe. Then they will return to the shores of America to explore the push to improve productivity and the rise of hybrid corn. The final stop on the journey will highlight the modern technology used to improve and grow this most important crop.
"This exhibit highlights corn as the most important plant breeding achievement of all time. Not only do visitors have a chance to explore how this amazing plant is tied to the origin of civilizations, it also gives them a chance to think about the critical issues facing us today. One of those challenges is growing enough food to feed the growing world population in a sustainable way," says Antonio Galindez, President and CEO of Dow AgroSciences, a national sponsor of "Amazing Maize."
This is a major exhibit for the Indiana State Museum, occupying 5,000 square feet. It will run for more than a year, and plans are in the works for a smaller exhibit that will travel nationally.
"We think it is an important role for our museum to address how agriculture has shaped our modern way of life," says Tom King, President and CEO of the Indiana State Museum. "The story of corn is significant, and that is reflected in the exhibit’s size and scope."
Divided into six sections, "Amazing Maize"will be full of videos and interactive pieces that will appeal to kids and adults alike. Visitors can test a specialty cornbased starch that keeps products dry, or try their hand at a wooden corn pounder that requires more than a little muscle. They can sit on a 1900s-era "corn gospeltrain" and listen to the nation’s first agronomy professor, P.G. Holden, reveal his secrets for increasing corn yields. Fast forward to the modern day and visitors can check out the latest in production technology from the seat of a Case IH combine simulator.
"Indiana corn farmers are excited to see the Indiana State Museum tell the story of a crop that has been so integral to not only our rural communities, but our state as a whole," says Jane Ade Stevens, executive director of Indiana Corn Marketing Council, local presenting sponsor of Amazing Maize.
Those who visit "Amazing Maize"will never think of a field of corn as "ordinary" again. Instead, they will see the plant for what it truly is: the result of an extraordinary story about humankind and its ingenuity.
The Indiana State Museum is located in White River State Park in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. Part of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, it is Indiana’s museum for science, art and culture , offering a place where you can celebrate, investigate, remember, learn and take pride in Indiana’s story in the context of the broader world. Even the building is a showcase of the best Indiana has to offer in architecture, materials and sculpture. For more information, call 317.232.1637 or visit indianamuseum.org.
"Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn"is sponsored nationally by Dow AgroSciences LLC, Ford Motor Company, Case IH, and National Starch LLC. Regional sponsors are the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and Indiana Farm Bureau.