NAME: David Buchanan

TITLE: Curator, Decorative Arts and Furniture   FOR: Indiana State Museum & State Historic Sites Corporation

SINCE? With the state, since 1997 both at the Indiana State Museum and with the Indiana War Memorials at their Soldiers & Sailors Monument

ORIGINALLY FROM? Durango, Colorado

YOUR JOB DUTIES INCLUDE? Working with furnishings for all of the State Historic Sites, reviewing and improving the furniture and decorative objects of the collection, working on various types of exhibits, working on interpretive and furnishing plans plus interpretive scripts


PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD TO HAVE BEEN PART OF? Visible to the public: The opening of the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum in the S&S Monument. Not visible to the public: Monumental task of creating interpretive and furnishing plans for all of our State Historic Sites.

OTHER PROJECTS WE MIGHT RECOGNIZE? Restored (always ongoing) the closest historic house to the Circle, an 1870 Italianate. (His home) It’s not particularly important but it’s fun to say.

WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO (JOB)? Absolutely everything – even, occasionally, the ever-ongoing myriad of meetings. The most fun is working with folks interested in Indiana’s history and trying to decide what’s important historically to collect.

WORST PART OF WHAT YOU DO? Not enough time to get all of what I want to accomplish done and worrying what I’m missing that will be important to the museum 25/50 years (or longer) from now.

HOW YOU DEFINE PERSONAL SUCCESS? You are happy with your life, your family and your job.

ADVICE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO WHAT YOU DO? Make sure you love it before you get into it. Volunteer at any organization offering jobs in your area of interest to learn the practical sides in addition to what is taught in class. Know the pay will never be great but the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment can be wonderful -if you really love it.

IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH RELATING TO YOUR JOB/CAREER/ORGANIZATION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? That any mistakes I make, (being human I know I make them) won’t impact future curators and the collection too badly.

WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT TO WHERE YOU ARE WITHOUT? Good heavens! This question could take hours…. But I’d say it really just boils down to people. Those who mentored; those who gave me initial breaks; those who taught me differences; even those I never met but learned from in books, articles and meetings.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? I want to leave something fine for the future.  (See his first favorite quote below) In that quote I’d include the best of our material culture too.

WHO WERE/ARE YOUR MENTORS AND HOW DID THEY HELP? The list of names is just too long. It would start with two wonderful antique dealers who talked to me about “old stuff” at the age of 8, history and art teachers, members of the Association of Indiana Museums, and lots of other curators.

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HISTORY? I was born with it apparently. My family noted I was walking home from 4th grade through alleys hauling home old things that “should be saved!” In high school I had to buy a Murphy bed just to be able to get around in my room. Fortunately now I get to collect without further stuffing my home!

The newest one I learn.

YOU CAN HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE FROM INDIANAPOLIS PAST? WHO & WHY? I’d like to sit quietly listening to all of the wives of every Governor who has served from Indianapolis. I bet that would be a fascinating conversation about the realities of behind the scenes.

YOUR CAREER IN AN ALTERNATE LIFE? Writer of Historical Fiction


FAVORITE VIEW IN THE CITY? Sitting on my front porch swing.


FAVORITE CITY BESIDES INDIANAPOLIS? Never just one: Places like New Orleans; San Francisco; Venice, Italy

FAVORITE HISTORY RELATED BOOK OR MOVIE? Movies are for escapism and I cheerfully acknowledge I’m plebeian in my tastes. I always enjoy seeing how sets are decorated (even when they have things wrong); love to see how movie makers show the past with CGI; so, films like Titanic, Gladiator. Plus I enjoy many of the older films on Turner Movie Classic. Many of those, I’m sorry to note, I actually saw when first released on the big screen!

ULTIMATE BEVERAGE? Water, clear and cold

COLLECT ANYTHING? Personally? Yes, but nothing specific. Mostly I look for objects with an interesting appearance or great stories. Professionally for the Museum? I look for anything that would be important in telling Indiana’s wonderful history

IF YOUR LIFE HAD A THEME SONG, WHAT WOULD IT BE?  60’s song: “One Tin Soldier” ? Maybe not my theme song, but it pops in my head on long drives.

FAVORITE QUOTE? Alternates between “the earth does not belong to us, it belongs to our children” and “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”



2 responses to “Heritage Steward: David Buchanan”

  1. GUY MAGER says:

    David –i am guy mager and i am working on the old FORD MOTOR COMPANY ON WASHINGTON street .In 2014 this building will be 100 years and we want to plan a party with model T-A CARS-AND TRUCKS

  2. Jim Walsh says:

    Is that plant building still around? I think many years later there was a Ford Plant in the eastern suburbs of your city.

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