Letter from the Former Director
In late 2017 I had a conversation with the house. It was December, the first full week of daily operational hours for the Harlan-Lincoln House museum. After unlocking doors, turning on lights, and completing a final walk through to make sure everything was ready, I found myself with a quiet moment in the central hallway of the Harlan’s family home. While I don’t remember exactly what was said, it sounded something like, “Hi. As you know, I’m Anna, the new museum Director. I am going to be spending a lot of time here along with students, volunteers, and museum visitors. I hope our work adds to the continued stewardship of this place and its history. I hope we make you proud.” It also may have included an additional request to be spared from any spiritual visitors but, if asked directly, I will deny that part.
In March 2021, I made the difficult decision to resign from the Director of the Harlan-Lincoln House position. I had the opportunity to accept the Collections Coordinator role with Project Art at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, working closer to our home in Iowa City. While, I have records and progress reports from the 3,500+ hours of cleaning, artifact care, exhibit research, meetings, tours, and events which occurred over my three and a half years at the Harlan-Lincoln House, it is the people and experiences shared which will remain with me.
On behalf of the Friends of the Harlan-Lincoln House and Iowa Wesleyan University, thank you for your continued support. It has been an honor to be a small part of the Harlan-Lincoln House’s one hundred and forty-five year history.
Former Director of the Harlan-Lincoln House
You’re Invited to the July Reopening Event
Monday, July 12, 2021
4:00pm – 6:00pm
More details coming soon! Visit HarlanLincolnHouse.org or follow our NEW Facebook page for updates!
Introducing Our New Director
The Harlan-Lincoln House is pleased to welcome a new Director, Madison Pullis. Madison brings a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to the role, as you’ll see in her introduction below!
Please share the path that led you into the museum profession.
A bit of a “know-it-all” growing up, I tended to know a lot about a little, and that translated to being interested in a wide variety of subjects. The areas I enjoyed the most led me to a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology from Iowa State University. After completing my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to complete an internship at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, VA. I was placed in the paleontology department, where I spent most of my summer cleaning dinosaur bones and talking to visitors about the Jurassic period. (There was a steep learning curve that summer, as all of my previous dinosaur knowledge was based on The Land Before Time movies). Yet after that internship, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the museum sector, though not in paleontology.
After spending the rest of that year teaching in Vietnam, I came back to the U.S. and began another position at the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site in Independence, MO. While there, I was able to work with many different museum collections from the National Park Service and understand how a house museum operates. Following the end of that internship, I began my Master’s degree at George Washington University in 2018, which led me to opportunities to work and volunteer at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I then graduated with my M.A. in Anthropology and Museum Training in May 2020, lived through a pandemic, and here I am now – excited to be part of Iowa Wesleyan and the Harlan-Lincoln House!
What do you hope to accomplish as the new Director for the Harlan-Lincoln House?
As the new Director of the Harlan-Lincoln House, one of my first goals is to rebuild the relationship between the Harlan-Lincoln House and the community it serves. Due to the pandemic, the museum had to remain closed to the public for several months this past year. Though people could admire the house from afar (so yellow! so pretty!), really receiving the full scope of the house and the impact of the stories it contains was severely limited. While I hope to host various events and programs through the museum, I would love to (re)cultivate and maintain the relationship the public has with this historic house. There is so much history and information within the Harlan-Lincoln House walls waiting to be shared. That history relates to interesting past and current events at Iowa Wesleyan, Mount Pleasant, Southeast Iowa, and beyond.
What do you most appreciate about being back in Mount Pleasant?
One of the things I most appreciate about being back in Mt. Pleasant is that while things stay the same (and hopefully never change, Pad Thai!), improvements are continuously being made throughout the town. While I appreciate the new restaurants and businesses that have opened and updates to buildings or areas since I’ve been gone, I also appreciate that those improvements mean there are people who truly care about the community we share. I have lived in many places, and there’s not always the same level of thoughtfulness and consideration about the town and community that I have experienced while living in Mount Pleasant.
Throughout your travels, what has been your greatest adventure thus far?
On a study abroad trip to Costa Rica, the entire class of students staying at our campsite went on a hike to the primary rainforest after a couple of days of massive rainfall. We stayed in a preserved area of the rainforest, but the primary forest had never been farmed or inhabited by people and kept separate from the rest of the area. To get there, we had to hike about three hours each way in our muck boots due to all of the rain. Our professor and tour guide for the hike warned us to bring multiple pairs of socks if we needed to switch them out and stock up on water and bug spray. It was the middle of summer in a lowland rainforest, so the heat and humidity were high, and the mosquitoes were thriving.
I, naively, didn’t want to put another thing in my backpack, so I left the socks behind and instead stockpiled water. Not even thirty minutes into the hike, I got stuck in the rivers of mud making up our trail. When I say stuck, I mean I was up to my knees in liquid mud and whether or not the reason I sunk so badly was because of the added weight from my stockpile of water remains a mystery. Needless to say, the mosquitoes made me their personal buffet, and getting me out of the mud took about four people and a lot of determination. There was a brief moment where I pictured myself stuck in the mud for the rest of my life, with the howler monkeys we were studying showing pity on me and tossing me a banana every once in a while.
After about fifteen minutes of struggling, I was able to free myself from the mud. In my struggle, two valuable pieces of equipment were left behind—my boots. To free me, two of my friends helped fling my body out of my shoes and the mud, meaning I stood in the mud in nothing but my only pair of socks. Fortunately, the group and I could dig my boots out of the mud, but unfortunately, I had to finish the rest of the five-and-a-half-hour hike with wet and muddy socks.
Not even soaked socks could prevent how amazing the rest of the hike was-from waterfalls, to wildlife I had always dreamed of seeing (especially in the wild), to crossing rope bridges and wading through hip-deep water (really, the dirty socks became less of an issue when everything waist-low had rainforest water soaking it). That hike through the primary rainforest in Costa Rica remains one of my most incredible adventures.
Brown Bag Lecture Series
Eager audiences welcomed the return of our annual ‘Brown Bag’ March lecture series. The familiar format resumed this year with increased attendance. Additional participation was due to the University’s livestreaming option. Off-site viewers could watch lectures live or later at their convenience. On-site attendees enjoyed the usual opportunity to personally discuss the topic with the presenter and others, as well as check out related displays. This year’s campus location in the Social Hall of the Howe Student Activity Center provided appropriately-distanced seating.
The series’ wide-spectrum topics and their presenters were enjoyed with much interest and enthusiasm. They were: “Art in [this] Residence” – Iowa Wesleyan’s art department in the Harlan House 1946-1959 by former Director of the Harlan-Lincoln House Anna Villareal; “The Historic Mount Pleasant, Iowa and Greencastle, Indiana Connection” by local historian Pat White; “Remembering the Orphan Train” by Mason City, IA historian Dennis Wilson; “Iowa’s Country School Memories” by Iowa author William Sherman with remarks by Aaron Kimsey highlighting the upcoming book on local rural schools by the Henry County Historic Preservation Commission; and “Nancy Drew and the Ghost of Ladora” by Iowa Wesleyan alumna Patricia Essick. We gratefully appreciate the research, expertise, context and information offered by these knowledgeable lecturers.
Now it’s YOUR turn to suggest a possible historical topic to explore in next year’s series. Please feel free to contact email@example.com We look forward to hearing from you…AND then, to your new or continued involvement with the 2022 Brown Bag series. Mark your calendars for March Tuesdays at noon CDT!
Tours of the Harlan-Lincoln House with current and former Mount Pleasant residents often lead to conversations about the visitor’s previous interactions with the house and their personal connections to its history. Sometimes, these discussions lead to unique stories. In 2019, the Mount Pleasant Community High School Class of 1969 toured the museum as part of their fifty-year class reunion weekend. “Did you know that there was once a pet bobcat in the Harlan House?” This comment stopped us in our tracks. A bobcat in one of the oldest buildings on campus? It was unbelievable, until pictures of “Bobbie” were discovered earlier this year.
The Winter 1958 edition of the Purple & White publication highlights this unbelievable tale with the article “Bobbie-An All American Bobcat”. When Dr. Carlo Ignoffo, Assistant Professor of Biology joined the faculty at Iowa Wesleyan, Bobbie the bobcat came with the family; “Bobbie was reared by us primarily as a study of growth and behavior patterns of a bobcat in captivity, however, she rapidly became quite a devoted house pet.” The article includes images of the cat throughout the Iowa Wesleyan Presidential Residence at 611 East Washington Street but no direct comments about connections to the Harlan-Lincoln House.
Do you have any information about Dr. Ignoffo or their family’s residence in Mount Pleasant? Did you encounter Bobbie the bobcat or any other unexpected animals on campus? Share your insights with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and check back in the Harlan-Lincoln House Newsletter Fall 2021 edition for more information on Bobbie.