Welcome to the Museum of Early Indiana Lifethe virtual interpretation of a career-long dream that was never realized. This website is dedicated to the memory of Warren E. Roberts, a pioneer in the study of American traditional material culture and folklife. He was a literary folklorist with an interest in English and Scottish ballads when he went to Norway as a Fulbright scholar in 1959. Inspired by the outdoor museums of early Norwegian life that he visited, Warren returned to Bloomington and Indiana a year later as quite a different kind of folklorist. more...
Warren envisioned a living history museum of rural Indiana life of the pre-Industrial period modeled after the Norwegian museums, and he set about creating it. Backed by legendary Indiana University President Herman B Wells, Professor Roberts hoped to create an outdoor museum of Indiana life, and with the able assistance of many students, he located, acquired, and transported to Bloomington, often log by log and plank by plank, the barns, bridges, houses, and other items that would populate the outdoor museum.
Unfortunately, the funds to build the outdoor museum never materialized. Warren was an assiduous fieldworker who took photographs, kept notes on odd pieces of paper that came readily to hand, and drew rough and more finished sketches of floor plans; these field materials, along with the entire store of his professional papers, were graciously donated to the Folklore Archives, an integral unit of the Indiana University Archives, by his wife, Barbara Roberts. From these records, we have created this virtual rendition of the museum, an exhibition that we hope captures something of the flavor of the outdoor museum Professor Roberts envisioned, even if here you are obliged to scroll about rather than stroll about as originally intended.
This website is designed to feature the Outdoor Museum of Early Indiana Life, but also serves, we hope, as an introduction to the larger Warren E. Roberts Collection in the Folklore Archives.
Welcome to the Warren E. Roberts Museum of Early Indiana Life! This website and accompanying virtual museum are constructed in homage to the late Warren E. Roberts (1924-1999).
The Warren E. Roberts Collection is housed at Indiana University’s Folklore Archives, an integral unit within the University Archives. We encourage students and scholars to come to Bloomington to consult the many documents, photos, and other resources in this collection. To access an inventory of these holdings, you may click on this link: