The life of the Indy cycling world champion on display at the Indiana State Museum

Bike enthusiasts and history buffs can see a new exhibit at the Indiana State Museum. Visitors can view artifacts and have interactive experiences centered on the life of the first black world champion cyclist and Indy native Marshall “Major” Taylor. WFYI’s Terri Dee talks to the museum’s curator of social history, Kisha Tandy, about the exhibit’s unique features and Indiana’s enthusiasm for sports as early as the 1800s.


Terri Dee, WFYI reporter: Kisha, what can Indiana State Museum visitors experience with the exhibit?


Indiana State Museum Social History Curator Kisha Tandy: Visitors to the exhibit will have the opportunity to have an interactive experience while learning about the remarkable life of Major Taylor. They will have the opportunity to try and beat Major Taylor in a time trial. So they will have the opportunity to get on a bike and see if they can compete with it. They also have the opportunity to learn how bikes work and how to fix a flat tire, as well as the chance to try building their own little bike.


Dee: Why did the Indiana State Museum feel it was worth presenting this type of exhibit?


Tandy: This collection is packed with information that Taylor used to write her autobiography, and it is truly a chronicle of her life. The basis of the exhibition is the collection which includes albums, photographs, letters and postcards. We use these records to help tell the story of his life and to chronicle all of his many victories and accomplishments.


Dee: For non-cyclists, what does the museum hope someone who comes to see the exhibition can benefit from?


Tandy: For non-cyclists, you can learn more about Major Taylor’s early life here in Indianapolis. He was born on November 26, 1878 and he stayed in the city until 1895. You can learn about the cycling craze and different things that were happening in the city. How did Major live in Indianapolis? How was life with his family? Thus, you will get a little information about his travels, and his love for his wife and daughter. You will get an idea of ​​what his life was like with his family. And this is especially true when you have the opportunity to hear portions of letters written to them. So there are plenty of activities for everyone who comes to visit the exhibition.


Dee: The Indiana State Museum needs to review different exhibits that they want to see in the museum. What are the criteria ? What are decisions based on when the appropriate staff says, OK, we think this would make a great exhibit? What are the factors involved?


Tandy: Telling Indiana’s story and sharing Indiana’s story, then also what’s available in our collection. One of the things about Major Taylor is that we have the materials in the collection to help tell the story. We had documentation of his travels. We had the images that could help support the exhibits and we have trophies that are part of the exhibit and the experience that we might have that could be part of the exhibit. So having those elements allowed us to lay the foundations and build the exhibit.


Dee: Kisha, the exhibit looks amazing. Thank you for sharing this information today and telling us about this exhibit.


Tandy: Thank you.


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