New curator takes charge at Carnegie

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A self-professed history and classics nerd who jams to the “Hamilton” soundtrack, Ashley Hannum works within walking distance from the wooded grounds of a famed Civil War general’s study in the childhood town of “Chicago’s” playwright.

“It’s a small town that feels alive and vibrant and it doesn’t feel, you know, like it’s sleepy and fading that some small towns tend to do,” said Hannum, the new curator of the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County.

She was tapped to replace longtime curator Kat Burkhart, who stepped down in January to join Purdue University.

Originally planning a career in the medical field, Hannum was studying chemistry at DePauw University when she changed her major to classical civilizations. That led to a job doing conservation work in the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis archaeology lab.

Hannum later became curator of anthropology and archaeology but wanted to work in a smaller institution, where she could be more involved in the broader responsibilities of running a museum.

As the Carnegie prepares to celebrate its 15th anniversary next year, its new leader sees an opportunity to better define the museum’s mission. The museum was originally founded by the Crawfordsville District Public Library to bring awareness and appreciation to the county’s history, heritage and culture.

“We’re doing a lot more than that in the community,” Hannum said.

Hannum said she wants library and museum staff and the public to be part of the conversation. She also plans to look for ways to revamp the “WOW Gallery,” which spotlights notable county natives, take note of the 120th anniversary of the building’s dedication and update the permanent exhibits.

“What exactly that looks like at this point in time, I’m not 100% sure yet… but we’re ready for some updates and just to make sure that we’re continually relevant to the county.”

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