A reminder of who I should be

Life is about relationships. It’s about how we choose to make a mark on this earth, who we can impact and reach in a positive way before our number is called.

This is something I forget sometimes. I used to be better. I used to remember every single visitor’s name, even remember their dog’s names, their likes and dislikes. That was when work was easier. I was a seasonal interpreter and had time to invest in building relationships with visitors, and thus, enhancing their experience and making them feel as if they belonged and were a valued addition to the property. I was pretty good at that.

Then, I became a grown up. I got a full-time job. Oftentimes, moving up in the field of interpretation (whether at parks or museums) means moving from the front visitor lines to behind a desk in a back office. The desk world is tough. Staring at a computer screen, meeting deadlines, doing budgets (math isn’t my thing), and being a logistics coordinator means I spend less and less time with visitors. That’s how I excuse my “inability” to learn visitor’s names and backstories. I leave that job to our seasonal heritage interpreters, the role I once held so well.

I am wrong, though. I need to hold onto this role. I need to strike a balance between the desk duties and visitor interaction. I have been letting this desk job get the best of me. Luckily, last week’s History Camp brought me back to life. Hanging out with seven kids for the week, designing and leading programs like I did as a seasonal interpreter, detaching myself from the computer, and just taking time to enjoy their personalities has reinvigorated me.

Our History Camp ran Monday through Thursday of the past week. We had boys and girls ranging in age from six to 11 years. I’ve led many camps before, but none quite like this. This one seemed special. We had less kids than camps I’d led in the past, and that was really a blessing. It allowed us to absorb their personalities and really bond through the week. Each day started with an ice breaker, created by staff member Amanda. We learned many things about each other, from one camper’s ability to recite all the presidents to another’s musical talents. Though the week, we toured through the mansion and ventured into the “creepy and smelly” basement. We embarked on a scavenger hunt (which prompted one high-energy camper to repeatedly hide in closets) and even took a field trip to the Old Lighthouse Museum where we had a fantastic tour led by Karen. Our last day ended with a special lunch from Top Dog. Seeing the kids picnicking in the formal mansion gardens with ketchup and mustard smeared all over their faces was a great contrast.

The last few minutes of camp were a little crazy. We were cleaning up lunch, passing out t-shirts, and parents were coming to get their kids. As they were leaving, many campers expressed interest in coming back again next year; some wished it could be History Camp every day of the summer. They even offered to move into the mansion, live in the servant’s quarters and clean for me if they could stay a little longer.

Yes, we will be offering History Camp again next summer. I hope my feeling of having reconnected with an interpreter’s purpose doesn’t fade through the next year. If it does, I will count on these campers to reinvigorate me again in 2017.

Thanks to our staff and volunteers for their assistance. Thanks, especially, to our seven campers for reminding me that life is about relationships and the way we relate with each other as human beings on this earth. Thanks for reminding me that it’s important to step away from my desk and connect with visitors. I hope our camp has impacted and reached each one of you in a positive way. See you in 2017.

By Jessica Rosier, Director



New Discoveries at the Barker Mansion

Today the staff members did something that has been on our bucket list since the beginning of the summer- we opened up the attic spaces and took a peak inside. The staff have anxiously awaited this afternoon when we would all be free to take our flashlights out and see if the Purdue (or even the Barkers) left some treasures in the attic. There are two openings into the attic- one in the old 1857 part of the mansion and the other in the ballroom on the 3rd floor of the 1905 edition. Who knew what we would expect! Would there be enough room to physically inspect brickwork or would we be blocked at the door and only take a small look into the area where so many of our visitors ask questions about. I was not taking any risks when it came to climbing up into the attic. I came to work prepared with my jeans stuffed into long socks and boots. It looked like I was going into a bio-hazardous situation with my NASA sweatshirt pulled over my head and secured with a mask. But I wanted to be safe rather than sorry.

Suited up for our attic adventure


When we opened the attic in the 1857 house,  fellow Heritage Interpreter T.J. and I were able to crawl around and examine where the old brick meets the new edition. We saw original piping and what looked like the makings of an old duct in the kitchen. Instructions for the laying of wool insulation littered the area beneath us as we carefully made our way to each rafter. The Ballroom was not as fruitful. I had hoped to find a bust of Katherine Barker which would complete our set of busts of John H. Barker, Anna Barker, and young Catherine Barker. I wanted to find missing pictures or perhaps small toys that were placed there for safe keeping and later forgotten. Unfortunately, all we saw was modern insulation.

Seeing the attic was just another way I could really visualize what sort of construction was happening in the mansion over 100 years ago. I can more accurately define where the 1857 house ends and the new edition begins after seeing that raw footprint. But like any good researcher, we were left with even more questions and more opportunities for some interpretation of the construction in our Behind the Scenes tours. The sites were truly remarkable and warrant further research to bring what we saw today into aspects of our tours and exhibits.

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Heritage Interpreter T.J. Kalin takes the first look into the 3rd floor attic

If you are looking to know more about the workings of the mansion or simply just want to peak into rooms that are not included on the 1pm guided tour, come to our Behind the Scenes tours on Wednesday nights at 7pm. Doors open 15 prior to the tour. Capacity is limited to the first 15 guests that arrive. Tickets are $15/adult, $10/youth.

See http://www.barkermansion.com for more details.

Emily Reth

Heritage Interpreter


Exhibits at the Barker Mansion

One of the things I most enjoy about working at the Barker Mansion is that I am surrounded by real living history. It can also pose as a disadvantage in many cases- we don’t allow photography of the artifacts, we cannot touch the artifacts and most of the items on the tours, some rooms must be roped off at the door. It is honestly an oxymoron. We want people to enjoy the history that the house provides, but as staff we create barriers so items can be preserved and enjoyed for future generations. One of the ways we can show guests artifacts is by creating exhibits.

Yesterday the Barker Mansion staff moved many of the exhibit cases from the 3rd floor ballroom to several other rooms in the mansion. Previously, the 3rd floor was a self- guided floor where several exhibit cases were created with items collected from the mansion. Today our first tour experienced our new exhibit case locations. Cases were put in the Catherine’s sitting room, master bathroom, master bedroom, and exhibits are still waiting to be created in the drawing room and old master bedroom. The tour flowed seamlessly- guests were able to visualize what items Mrs. Barker used in the master bedroom or see what toys Catherine played with in her sitting room. As a heritage interpreter here at the mansion, I am always examining how my tours go and what snags I come across in the story I tell. When the staff came together, we noticed similar problems in how our tour was constructed. Exhibit cases enhanced the experience of the tour and allowed guests to participate in learning what Catherine’s childhood was like here at the Barker Mansion.

Come take a look at our new exhibits!

Tours are offered Tuesday- Saturday from 10am – 11:30am for a 1st floor self guided tour and Tuesday- Saturday promptly at 1pm for a guided tour of all 3 floors of the mansion.Our Behind the Scenes tours are Wednesday nights at 7pm. Entry is limited to the first 15 guests.

See http://www.barkermansion.com for more details.

Emily Reth

Heritage Interpreter

Behind the Scenes Tour

Tonight will be the mansion’s 3rd Behind the Scenes tour of the summer! I had the privileged of leading the first Behind the Scenes tour on June 15th. Summer had finally come, and with that, a specialty tour. This tour in particular is unique because guests visiting the Barker Mansion can discover how the mansion operated, explore the basement and peek into rooms that are not seen on the guided tours.

Guest admiring artifacts in the Library

As an interpreter, I have mixed opinions about this sort of tour and I was both excited and nervous about leading people through the archive, the basement where we are currently renovating some of the rooms, and other more personal areas, such as my office located in what would have been a servant’s bedroom in the 1857 part of the house. I was worried that because I would be leading a tour through rooms like the Summer Kitchen and Wine Cellar in the basement, I would not be able to answer as many detailed questions. As I walked through rooms two weeks ago making last minute preparations before guests arrived, I realized that this tour would be more of a challenge- the tour talks more in depth about our relationship with Purdue and has more of a mechanical feel since we discuss the inventions installed in the 1905 edition that were “before their time”. Pictures, blueprints, diagrams, and copies of post cards were set up along my journey to assist me in interpreting the rooms and artifacts.

Students from Purdue North Central when the Barker Mansion served as a center for study


For the community, this is a fantastic way to travel back to an era where modern inventions were merely ideas and dreams. The two hour guided tour is a way to comprehend how a different generation operated. My knowledge of the Barker family and the factory are challenged, but a new narrative is created, shedding light on so many questions guests have wondered while touring the mansion. As an interpreter, this tour was a way to share a story that is not told very often.

Space for this tour is limited to the first 15 guests.  Admission prices are $15/Adult & $10/youth.  Doors open 15 min in advance.


Emily Reth

Heritage Interpreter

Pink Tea in the Garden

Summer at the Barker Mansion is here! We are anxiously awaiting some of our newer events such as our Summer Camp and Movie by Moonlight events. For the first time, I will experience the Pink Tea event coming up on June 25th and 26th. Both afternoon teas will start at 3pm.

The Pink Tea has been a Barker Mansion tradition for quite a few years. Traditionally held outside under the pergola, the tea invites a new experience to guests. When the Barkers lived in the mansion over 100 years ago, tea in the garden, whether in the tea house or under the pergola, was not out of the ordinary. At the Pink Tea, guests can imagine what tea with Mrs. Barker and friends could have been like as they enjoy the sites of the garden with their own family and friends.


This year’s afternoon tea will be catered by the Duneland Beach Inn. Take a sneak peak at our menu!

The Braur Museum’s Gregg Hertzlieb will be our speaker this year. He will take a look at the captivating artwork of dunes painter Frank Dudley(1868-1957), whose regional contributions in the creative and environmental realms would have been familiar to the Barker Family.



Reserve your seat at this year’s Pink Tea!

Also new this year, the occasion will include a self-guided first floor tour of the mansion following the event. Advance registration and payment of $32 per adult or $28 per youth (ages 17 and under) is required. Groups can reserve a table of six for $180. Eventbrite processing fees will apply.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through the link below:




Emily Reth

Heritage Interpreter



Until Next Time, Farewell.

Since January, I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to intern at the Barker Mansion in Michigan City, Indiana. I started this internship as a means to secure the final credits needed for me to graduate this semester. When I first started, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with this blog. I didn’t know where I would take it. I’ve had the chance to write about a multitude of events, a bit of the history surrounding the mansion, and the future of the mansion. It’s been a great four months, and I’ve had the ability to learn a lot.

I learned a lot from this establishment.

I want to thank Jessica Rosier for giving me this opportunity. She has been amazing to work for. She’s someone I’ve only gained more and more respect for the more I worked for and with her. When I first met with her, she asked me what I wanted to do for this internship which completely threw me off. I had this idea that I would just be told what to do. Instead, she made my internship a collaboration between the two of us. I thank her for that because I’ve loved writing this blog.

The Throwback Games Event; the first event I was a part of.

Jessica knew I’m a creative writing major, and she made sure that my internship benefited my major, my craft. I remember the first blog I wrote. It took me the entire day, from the moment I walked into the mansion to the moment I left, to write it all. I felt in over my head after my first day. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, and I didn’t know how I would continue writing about the mansion. However, the staff at the mansion supported me. They helped me come up with ideas which all helped in the long run. As I look back at my past blog posts, I’ve definitely grown and the blog has continued to improve.

Anna Ogden Gown
One of many artifacts I learned about at the mansion.

I’ve had the chance to learn a lot about the Barker Mansion and the Barker family. I’ve been a part of numerous tours and been given small history lessons from different historical events the mansion held. I came into the mansion at an interesting time. Since Jessica has taken over, she has made it her goal to revitalize the mansion and make it a bigger part of the community of Michigan City. So far, she and her staff has done an amazing job. I’m grateful to have been a part of it all. The multitude of events the mansion has held have been successful and great learning lessons for everyone.

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As I end my internship, May 4th was my last day, I want to say thank you to Jessica and everyone at the Barker Mansion for this amazing opportunity. I’ve had the ability to learn a lot, and I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of something really special. I know the Barker Mansion will only continue to improve. I’ve been a part of many firsts at the mansion, including this blog, and it’s bittersweet to be walking away from it. Once again, thank you to the Barker Mansion for this opportunity. Until next time.

Miguel Valencia

Jewelry Making at the Mansion

Last night at the Barker Mansion, we had a local from the community come to the mansion to teach a jewelry making class. Pat Frankinburger is a retired english teacher who has dedicated her retirement to numerous hobbies. One that she started around six years ago was jewelry making. From the moment she picked up a jewelry kit from Barnes and Noble, Pat has been making her own jewelry and continues to do so.

Pat getting the class started.

The students for tonight’s class had the opportunity to create their own jewelry. They could choose between a bracelet and a pendant for the class. The class was all women, but there was a variety of ages. We had children, young adults, and adults all in attendance. Everyone seemed very eager to learn, and that’s not too surprising. Who wouldn’t want to know how to make their own jewelry? It’s probably cheaper in the longer run. Plus, as Pat shared with me, “there’s something special about wearing something you made”.

The students making their pendants and bracelets.

As stated before, Pat used to be an english teacher. This was the first time Pat has ever taught a jewelry making class, but she naturally fit the part as teacher once again. She kept everyone’s attention and made sure to work one-on-one with everyone during the process. She told me before the class started that she felt nervous since this was her first time sharing her methods for making jewelry. She recalled the first time she wore her jewelry out in public. She wasn’t sure how people would respond, if they would respond at all. In the end, she received compliments for her jewelry. That was a great feeling for her then, and teaching this class was also a great feeling for her.

Pat helping one of the students.

The reason Pat decided to have this class was due to her being in contact with Jessica, the head of the Barker Mansion. Pat has been a volunteer for the mansion, and felt there was no better place than the mansion to have her first class. When asked why, Pat simply said, “[it’s her] way of paying back the community”.

Two of the finished bracelets.

Pat said, “it’s all about creativity” and that showed tonight during the class. She shared some pattern designs the students could do, but Pat encouraged everyone to do whatever they wanted. She promoted they be creative with it. In the end, it will be their jewelry, so it should look the way they want it to look.

Pat giving one-on-one guidance.

Continuing on, the creativity had all always been there for Pat and the first person Pat taught how to make jewelry was her daughter, a fine arts major. Now, her daughter has gone on to make some fantastic jewelry, and Pat uses that as motivation to make her own jewelry better. Pat is currently looking into having another class with a troop of girl scouts in the future. She is excited about that prospect since it is a way to teach the girls something new while also allowing mothers and daughters to have a bonding experience the way Pat had with her own daughter.

Pat Frankinburger, our jewelry making teacher for the night.

Making jewelry is a hobby for Pat, and she sees it staying that way. She’s been told to sell her jewelry on sites like Etsy and to create an online presence. Pat does attend craft shows and fairs to sell some of her jewelry. However, she isn’t looking to branch out and make her hobby into a business. She’s a crafter and enjoys making the jewelry for fun. Making some money isn’t bad, but in the end, it’s simply something fun to do. Pat has expressed the idea of having future classes, and we would love to have back again.

Miguel Valencia