A Mighty Museum – Evansville Living Magazine

A Mighty Museum – Evansville Living Magazine

Jim Osborne

It welcomes about 30,000 guests annually and its artifacts come from sources across the United States and around the world. And yet the Indiana Military Museum considers itself an under-the-radar attraction.

The destination in Vincennes, Indiana, packs over a century of history into small, walk-in spaces. Adult admission is $8, and you get a lot for your money—you can see weapons, uniforms and vehicles of friend and foe from conflicts from the Civil War to the present.

Founder Jim Osborne says visitors are impressed by the breadth of the collection, with some even comparing it favorably to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“They enjoy visiting our museum just as much, or even prefer it, because they see more artifacts per square foot,” says Osborne, who served as a Knox County Superior Court judge from 1976 to 2014.

Visitors can view a Sherman tank, Japanese and German tanks, and a Russian howitzer used by Iraqi forces. One of the museum’s rarest treasures is a World War II Higgins boat.

There is also a tank that the late Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev donated to the now-closed museum in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, when the former Soviet Union collapsed.

Outdoor exhibits include the nuclear submarine USS Indianapolis 697 and a range of aircraft such as a C-47 and C-45 from the 1940s and the A-26 Invader, which were used from World War II to Vietnam. There is even a fragment of a World War I zeppelin and a Cold War-era nuclear missile.

On display are uniforms of US Army icons George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower and Colin Powell. One exhibit offers a glimpse of what assembly lines looked like in the 1940s at Republic Aviation in Evansville.

Replica of a room in a 1940s style family home

Many items in the collection were assembled by Osborne, who made several trips to Europe and even met Albert Speer, Nazi Germany’s armaments minister, before Speer died in 1981.

Osborne says the museum, which was founded 40 years ago and has been open at its current location since 2013, survives on memberships, admission fees and donations. It is run by volunteers, many of whom are veterans.

“We are here to honor the men and women who have served our country throughout its history and to make it clear to each new generation that they are the beneficiaries of the sacrifices made by those who wore our country’s uniform and preserved our freedoms,” Osborne said.

An expansion, expected to be completed within a year, will create exhibition space and a 50-seat theater where visitors will be shown an introductory video. Special events and traveling exhibitions will be promoted on the museum’s Facebook page and website.