Claim to Fame

Milan ’54 Hoosier Museum
to open in new, larger location

Collection tells story
of famous basketball game

MILAN, Ind. (Mardch 2013) – When teachers, coaches, or parents want to inspire others to take on overwhelming odds – they turn to one of two stories: David versus Goliath or the Milan High School Indians versus the Muncie Central Bearcats. The story is legend. In 1954 Bobby Plump sank a last-minute shot to break a 30-30 tie sending the Milan Indians to the top as Indiana state basketball champions and into the history books.
The Indians had a tradition of great basketball and had advanced to the semi-final rounds the year before. Yet, Milan, with only 161 students, was the clear underdog to Muncie’s powerhouse team coming from a school of 2,200. Milan’s historic victory continues to inspire residents of the tiny town of only 1,900 – and people from around the world.

Milan 54 Museum

Photo provided

Volunteer Janie Haase of Milan works on a new display at the museum for the March opening.

To keep the legacy alive, Milan 54 Inc., operates Milan 54 Hoosiers Museum. The movie, “Hoosiers,” relayed the story of the “Milan Miracle” to audiences around the world in 1986. The museum houses the world’s largest known collection of “Hoosiers” movie memorabilia. The collection contains more than 180 items including cheer leading outfits, movie props, and many of the Hickory Huskers uniforms used in the movie.
The size of the collection outgrew the former location for the museum, so the museum is now moving to the former State Bank of Milan. The museum has renovated the bank and began moving the collection into the new space this winter. Thanks to a grant from Pacers Sports and Entertainment, the museum board was able to add to the Hoosiers Collection. Marianne Wiggers, President of Milan 54 Inc., says, “This Hoosiers Collection will be a wonderful addition to the museum and will preserve these historic artifacts for the people of Indiana. We are grateful to the Pacers Sports and Entertainment for their support of the Hoosier Collection project.”
The new museum also features hundreds of pictures, artifacts from the actual state final game, desks and blackboards from the school, and much more. Roselyn McKittrick, volunteer curator for the museum, notes that “We’ve had people from all 50 states and 23 foreign countries come to Milan for the museum. People love this story and love coming to see the history for themselves.”
McKittrick has volunteered for the museum for more than 25 years. She and the other board members have worked tirelessly to raise funds for the new location and can’t wait to share it with visitors.
“The new museum will include a media room with large screen to show footage of the original game, interviews with the players, ESPN footage, and other information to bring the story to life,” says McKittrick.
Also included is an extensive list of all the ways the movie differed from the actual story. Not considered dramatic enough, Hollywood added its own twists to the characters of the story. Viewers gain insights into the portions of the story that were created by Hollywood and those that really happened.
McKittrick notes that visitors to the museum gain more than just a view of the Milan basketball team. “Entering the museum is like stepping 60 years back into time. Visitors get a feel for the era of the movie – a very good time. They get to see the old stuff. Nostalgia is a big thing, and people get to experience that here,” says McKittrick.
When asked how people find out about the museum, she laughs and says, “I really don’t know. The movie helped, of course. But people were coming before the movie. They just know the story. And, they want to be part of it.” McKittrick adds that Milan 54 Inc. is also restoring the barber shop, which formerly housed the Hoosiers Collection. “We are putting it back to a barber shop. People will also get to see that part of history.”
Katherine Taul, Executive Director of Ripley County Tourism Bureau, praises the work of Milan 54 Inc. for its impact on the town. She notes that the expanded museum will offer more attractions for visitors and that the expanded space will display the collection in an even better light than before.
“Last year, we had an event marking the release of the Blu Ray edition of ‘Hoosiers’ and many people came to be part of that event at the new location. It was very exciting. People respond to the story of little guys coming up and beating the big guys. The museum helps connect people to the story and draws visitors to Milan.”
Taul adds that the spirit of the story lives on in the lives of the players. “Each of the men on the team moved forward in very positive ways in life. They became good examples for young people.” Eight of the nine players are still living, and they hold an annual reunion.
McKittrick said she looks forward to all the new museum will offer both the town and visitors. “We hope to reach more people with this story. The museum is very family-friendly, so we especially hope families will come so children can be inspired.”

• The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Visit: www.Milan54.org.


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