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In July 2009, the Indiana State Museum was designated [IC 14-20-16-1] custodian of the Indiana Governors' Portraits Collection. Contact at the Indiana State Museum is Kara S. Vetter, Registrar, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Indiana Historical Bureau continues to maintain this informational website in cooperation with the Indiana State Museum.
The Indiana Governors' Portraits collection consists of oil portraits (except for one pastel) of all but one governor of Indiana since it became a territory. When a new governor is elected, the Indiana State Museum must assure that the governor's portrait is painted and added to the collection. Most of the portraits are hanging in government offices in the State House in Indianapolis.
This Governors' Portraits Collection site includes an image of the portrait of each governor, general information about the painting, a brief biography of the governor, and a biography of the artist who painted the portrait.
In 1869, Governor Conrad Baker began collecting pictures of the seventeen Indiana governors who had preceded him. The legislature soon authorized him "to secure, as soon as practicable, a true and life-like likeness of each of the Governors of the State and Territory of Indiana, including the present incumbent . . .", at a cost not to exceed $200. Baker began his task by calling upon several local artists--six artists worked on the project at that time, working from life, or earlier paintings, or photographs. Since then, each governor has posed for his portrait either while in office or soon after.
In 1916, Indiana's centennial year, Samuel Ralston, then governor, asked T. C. Steele to paint additional portraits of four governors, who belonged to "epochal" periods of the state's history. They were William Henry Harrison, first territorial governor; Jonathan Jennings, first state governor; Oliver Perry Morton, Civil War governor; and Thomas A. Hendricks, an outstanding figure in the period of development following that war.
In 1977, under Governor Otis R. Bowen, the Indiana Historical Bureau began the process of restoring the paintings with an eye toward extending the collection as a cultural, historical, and educational tool. The Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) Conservation Laboratory restored the collection. Wilbur D. Peat's 1944 publication, Portraits and Painters of the Governors of Indiana 1800-1943 was revised and updated by Diane Gail Lazarus, IMA, and Lana Ruegamer, Indiana Historical Society. All of the paintings in the collection were exhibited together for the first time at the IMA in 1980.
The collection now totals fifty-three portraits; most are on public display. The collection is a visible reminder of Indiana's past and a resource for political, cultural, and art history.
The Indiana Historical Bureau was given statutory responsibility for maintaining the collection in 1978. In July 2009, statutory responsibility for maintaining the collection was transferred to the Indiana State Museum.