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Researching rivers

Hanover College’s new Rivers Institute
sees role reaching locally, worldwide

An Underground Railroad river ‘crossing,’
plein air event planned

By Don Ward
Editor

(May 2005) – The Rivers Institute at Hanover College is planning two significant events this year that will begin to define its mission and purpose for the community, according to newly hired director Dennis Wichelns.

Dennis Wichelns

Photo by Don Ward

Dennis Wichelns of California
takes over his new post at
Hanover College on June 1
.

Wichelns, an international expert on water resources, was hired in March to head the newly formed research organization, which was funded in 2004 by a five-year, $11.4 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. Wichelns, an economist for the California Water Institute and professor at California State University, Fresno, takes over his new post in Hanover on June 1.
On May 21, the Institute will sponsor a private Underground Railroad “river crossing” with several representatives from its “partners” located throughout the region. The event could be later developed into a regular tourism event to help interpret the Underground Railroad history of the area, said Molly Dodge, the Institute’s external relations director.
A second event, open to the public, is the Great River Paint Out, a plein air painting weekend to take place Sept. 17-18 at Hanover College. Artists will be invited to spend the weekend painting the Ohio River Valley and other scenes. It will include a plein air exhibition and sale and Saturday night bonfire.
“Although we will be working with research clients worldwide, we want to have a good relationship with the cities of Hanover and Madison, and we plan to sponsor a series of events, such as speakers and workshops, that will help introduce us to the public,” Wichelns said during an April 8 interview at the college.
The Underground Railroad event, for example, illustrates the importance of the river in local history, he said, but it also draws in a number of partners to work with the Institute on various levels.
The Underground Railroad “crossing” will leave from Preston Plantation downriver in Trimble County, Ky., on a customized barge and travel upriver to Hanover Beach. American Commercial Lines and Jeffboat, both in Jeffersonville, Ind., are providing the vessel, while the U.S. Coast Guard will supply the chase boat, Dodge said.
The event will include 18 docent class members from the newly opened National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, plus representatives from Historic Madison Inc., Eleutherian College in Lancaster, the Jefferson County Historical Society, Madison tourism office, Preston Plantation, Historic Landmarks of Indiana, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana representative to the National Park Service’s Freedom Trails initiative, and scholars from the University of Louisville and the University of Cincinnati. The day-long event includes lunch at St. Stephen’s Church in Hanover.
“It’s a good mix of people that come to us from a historical and scholarly perspective, but also from a cultural and heritage tourism perspective,” Dodge said.
The mission of the Rivers Institute is to seek out research opportunities that can involve Hanover College faculty and students, and to become a clearinghouse of information related to rivers. It’s mission is to study rivers through the disciplines of the liberal arts in three areas – culture,. economics and science.

• For more information on the Rivers Institute and its programs, call (812) 866-6846 or visit: www.riversinstitute.org.

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