Museums tend to look a little side-eyed when folks offer models of warships, planes or buildings to them for their collections. Often a complete recreation of the Hindenburg made from Legos isn’t the best display material at such a solemn place. So when the American Legion Post 830 reached out to the Indiana War Memorial with their offer, it was a tough sell, but then again the Lego version of the USS Indiana BB-1, a vessel from the late 1800’s used during the Spanish American War, wasn’t as nearly perfectly reproduced. This model even has movable gun turrets. She was indeed a thing of beauty, even if she is made of popsicle sticks.
When the residents at American Legion Post 830 first endeavored to recreate some of Indiana’s most notable warships and other engineering feats of history, they began with a few limitations. Steve Wilson, a former resident of H-Unit [for] Military Veterans (HUMV) at the post tells us that they aren’t allowed to have the tools that most artists get to work with. Tools are not something the residents there are allowed to handle too often. All of the men there are inmates as wells as veterans. American Legion Post 830 serves an incarcerated population of veterans who have run a foul of the law and are now serving their sentence where the post is located within the New Castle Correctional Facility.
Tour Manager at the Indiana War Memorial, Jason Edwardson, was impressed by the accuracy and detail of the models and believes that BB-1 will make an excellent addition to the exhibit already in place for this ship. The exhibit currently includes several items from the original vessel, but no model at this time. The other models offered were of the second USS Indiana, BB-58, a WWII warship decommissioned in 1946, and a tribute to the first USS Indianapolis sunk during the war.
It is amazing to witness the spirit of artistic endeavor and execution to this degree. The ships have moving parts and represent approx 3000 hours of work. The original work of the USS-Indianapolis model was performed by only 2 residents, including Steve; however, by the time they began the construction of the BB-58 model, they had a complete eight-man team all specializing in different areas of the model’s construction and that came together at the end to finish the masterpiece.
The men also created their own blueprints and construction designs that gave them a standard from which to work on their individual assignments. Once you see the finished products, one will be absolutely blown away by the level of artistry accomplished while using only nail clippers, sandpaper, glue and of course, popsicle sticks.
The group even created a special carrying case for the models made from their own custom cardboard engineering.
The models will be on display at the Indiana War Memorial Museum during a special reception on March 9th. Numerous tour groups are scheduled for that day as well as open to the public. An artist representative from Post 830 will be on hand to answer questions and explain the program that is helping several of the New Castle veteran residents pass their time. It is their desire that these works find a permanent home that can serve as educational instruction for future generations. For more information about Indiana War Memorial events visit their website at http://www.in.gov/iwm.