The Cultural Impact of a Museum In a Small Community: The Hour Glass in Ogden Dunes

                 The South Shore Journal, Vol. 2, 2007, pp.16-28.

The Cultural Impact of a Museum in a Small Community: 
The Hour Glass in Ogden Dunes

Stephanie Smith
Indiana University Northwest

Steve Mark 
Chicago, Illinois


The present article provides a description of the impact a private donation had on the cultural and artistic life of a community.  In Ogden Dunes, a small residential community on the shores of Lake Michigan, long-time resident Sue Mechtersheimer donated a house of historical value (the former residence of O.D. Frank, an iconic figure in Ogden Dunes) to the Historical Society of Ogden Dunes (HSOD). The HSOD turned the house into a museum called The Hour Glass.  The Hour Glass has a permanent collection of a variety of items of artistic, cultural, and historic value.  The museum also features special exhibits of photographs, paintings, drawings, crafts, and architectural work, and serves as a location of educational, cultural, and historical lectures.  Moreover, The Hour Glass has contributed to the social cohesion of the community by bringing residents together, thus helping to maintain a strong sense of regional identity.                 


The Cultural Impact of a Museum in a Small Community:  The Hour Glass in Ogden Dunes

It is suggested that the success of investment in iconic cultural projects depends above all upon people’s sense of belonging in a place…  (Miles, 2005, p. 1)

For years researchers have documented that investments in culture-based projects have had positive impacts on cities as well as smaller communities (Gauthier & RoyValex, 2004; Saint-Pierre, 2004).  Many city planners have emphasized art and culture in policy-making decisions (Griffiths, 1993). The establishment of a museum has been found to have a positive impact on cities and communities globally (Miles, 2005).  For example, museums in England, France, and Spain have had positive impacts on their communities (Lorente, 2002). An important consideration in developing cultural projects is the role of public and private funding (Trupiano, 2005). Many researchers have emphasized the key role of private finance and investment in urban regeneration (Guy, Hennebery, & Rowley, 2002), and others have cited the success of privately financed initiatives in establishing museums (O’Boyle, 1997).  The present article reports an example of the impact that one private donation had on the quality of life in a community. 

The Establishment of The Hour Glass in Ogden Dunes      

Ogden Dunes is a small residential community in Northwest Indiana on the shores of Lake Michigan in close proximity to the city of Gary (Platt, 1959; Taylor, Stevens, Ponder, & Brockman, 1989).  It has a population of approximately 1300 residents (Nevers, 2007).  One of the iconic figures in the community was Orlin Denton Frank (known as O.D. Frank).  It is his house that was privately donated to the Historical Society of Ogden Dunes for the establishment of The Hour Glass museum (Meister, 2006).      

O.D. Frank was born in 1879 in New Amsterdam, Indiana (D. Meyer, 2002)1.  He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Chicago, where he worked with Henry Chandler Cowles (Mark, 2004; Meyer, 20022), known as the father of North American ecology (Bender, 1999). O.D. Frank taught teacher education courses in the Department of Natural Sciences at the University of Chicago and was an Instructor at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, a position he held until his retirement in 1946 (Mark, 2004; Meister, 2006).  He devoted his life to teaching, both in his work environment and in the community in which he lived, Ogden Dunes (Mark, 2002).

In 1934 O.D. Frank built a residence in Ogden Dunes (with a wing added circa 1942) in which he lived until his death in 1963 (Mark, 2004).  He named his home “The Hour Glass” (Meister, 2006).  The house was a meeting place for people seeking knowledge about the natural world of the sand dunes of Ogden Dunes.  There, O.D. Frank conducted weekly educational sessions for adults and children alike.  He taught the names and properties of local flora and fauna, conveying the interrelatedness of each part of the local ecosystem.  He was much beloved by the residents of Ogden Dunes (Mark, 2002).      

One of the former students of O.D. Frank who maintained a life-long friendship with him was Sue Mechtersheimer.  In the early 1990’s, when a descendant of Frank was selling O.D. Frank’s former residence, Sue bought it and subsequently donated it to the Historical Society of Ogden Dunes in 1993, after renting it to them the previous year (D.Kurtz, 20073).  This private donation, this act of generosity, enabled the Historical Society of Ogden Dunes to turn the house into a museum and art gallery they named The Hour Glass (Meister, 2006).

Positive Cultural and Artistic Impact on the Community     

 A description of the methodology employed in the present study is in order.  To investigate The Hour Glass’s cultural and artistic impact on Ogden Dunes, we examined the published literature.  We also examined comments from personal communications with residents (6) and past residents (2) of Ogden Dunes.  The comments were selected to illustrate the impact of The Hour Glass on Ogden Dunes.  All of the interviewees had some experience with this museum.  These experiences ranged from being an officer of the Historical Society of Ogden Dunes, to having artistic work displayed at The Hour Glass, to being a visitor there.  Future research might include a more systematic investigation of the cultural and artistic impact of The Hour Glass on the community of Ogden Dunes.

The Hour Glass houses a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photographs, books, and historical records.  Artwork includes paintings by local artists June Bratton, W. L. Gallagher, Arlene Seitzinger, and Alice Muller, drawings by Ann Mallon-Bettis, and photographs by Bryan McCulloch and George Svihla (Meister, 2006; D. Meister, 20074).  Some of the artists who have shown their work at The Hour Glass have received awards, and many have displayed their work at other museums, galleries, and institutes (J. Muller, 20075). In addition, the museum houses a collection of rocks and stones that are classified to show their geological significance in evolution (Mark, 2002).        

A distinctive feature of The Hour Glass is a two-story fireplace that consists of fossils, stones, and rocks that O.D. Frank and his wife Tillie collected on their many travels (Meister, 2006).  O.D. Frank’s students and friends added their contributions from around the world until the collection totaled over 1200 pieces (Meister, 2006).  Examples of the collection are pieces from the Chalk Cliffs of Dover, the Battlefield of Tippecanoe, and the Pyramids of Egypt (Holmes, 2003).  O.D. Frank called this the “Friendship Fireplace” (Holmes, 2003).

In addition to the permanent collections of The Hour Glass, there are rotating displays of artistic and/or historical significance. These include paintings, prints, drawings, architectural work, and photographs (Meister, 2006).  Other exhibits have included displays of antique toys, doll houses, trains, and Christmas cards and ornaments to name a few (Kurtz, 2002). A particularly well-received exhibit featured the wedding dresses of many past and current residents of Ogden Dunes (N. Svihla, 20036).  For example, exhibit organizer Dorothy Kurtz displayed wedding dresses from three generations of her family, spanning 60 years of fashion (D. Kurtz, 20077).      

One of the functions of museums is to inspire the growth of local arts scenes (Lorente, 2002).  The Hour Glass has served that function well by soliciting and displaying the artwork of residents of the community (Kurtz, 2002; Meister, 2006).  Artists displaying their work at The Hour Glass have the potential to receive valuable feedback, recognition, and economic gain (Muller, 2007). An example of an exhibit at The Hour Glass was organized by the sons of well-known commercial and residential architect in Northwest Indiana, Fred Collins, who designed a number of homes in Ogden Dunes (D. Moore, 20078). The exhibit included Fred’s drawings and paintings from the Dunes, his world travels, and his professional work (Moore, 2007).

Another function of The Hour Glass is to facilitate ongoing education of the residents.  It houses lectures on a variety of topics including the history of Ogden Dunes and the surrounding area (Kurtz, 2007). The Hour Glass has also enhanced the community by preserving an important piece of local history.  To that end, it joins other museums in a global effort for preservation (Mgijima & Buthelezi, 2006).  Both the O.D. Frank house itself and the important archive collection it contains are now safe for subsequent generations to enjoy.        

While other communities may struggle to have residents engage with their museums (Mgijima & Buthelezi, 2006), that is not the case with The Hour Glass. Current and past residents of Ogden Dunes view it as a focal point in their community, a place to revisit again and again (A. Mark, 20079).  A particular highlight, in this regard, is the annual Ice Cream Social (J. Kelly, 200710).  Many residents make it a point to go to the event every year after the Memorial Day festivities (M. Muller, 200711).  The Hour Glass helps the residents of Ogden Dunes preserve a strong sense of regional identity, deemed important in the analysis of the effects of museums on communities (Miles, 2004).  In light of the role and significance of museums, whether to encourage partnerships and collaborative projects, enhance learning and skill development, or provide enjoyment, inspiration, and creativity (Mercer, 2004), The Hour Glass of Ogden Dunes serves as an exemplar of the positive impact of a museum in a small community.       


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1  Meyer, D. (2002, September 26). Personal communication

2  Meyer, D. (2002, September 25). Personal communication.

3 Kurtz, D. (2007, July 22). Personal communication. Hereafter cited in the text as Kurtz, 200 4

4  Meister, D. (2007, July 26). Personal communication.

5  Muller, J. (2007, July 22). Personal communication.  Hereafter cited in the text as Muller, 200

6  Svihla, N. (2003, June 20). Personal communication

7  Kurtz, D. (2007, July 23). Personal communication.

8  Moore, D. (2007, July 22). Personal communication.  Hereafter cited in the text as Moore, 2007

9  Mark, A. (2007, July 14). Personal communication

10  Kelly, J. (2007, July 22). Personal communication.

11  Muller, M. (2007, July 22). Personal communication.




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