Davis Citation winner seeks help for military museum
Jim Osborne is honored to have been selected as the recipient of Vincennes University’s Walter A. Davis Citation, but his thoughts are on a number of issues and activities involving the Indiana Military Museum.
“It is humbling to think that I am among the names of others who have received the award,” Osborne said. “I’m very honored and pleased to be selected.”
The former Superior Court judge will be honored with the Citation during a banquet at 6:30 p.m. on May 11, at VU’s Green Activities Center. The Davis Citation is named after the former VU President, who served from 1924 to 1950. It is presented annually to a VU alumnus or resident of the greater VU Community and recognizes civic leadership and contributions, in addition to professional achievements.
Osborne has nothing but praise for VU, and said that the University not only helped him transition from high school to college, but that it prepared him for further academic work at Indiana State University.
“It’s nice that it is right here in Vincennes,” he said. “I was able to stay at home and go to school, and it helped save me money.”
Busy in the community
Osborne served as a judge in Knox County for 39 years, appointed first in 1976 when the post was created, then elected for the years that followed. Prior to earning his law degree from Indiana University in 1974, Osborne was a history and government teacher at Lincoln High School in Vincennes. Throughout his career he has served his community on the boards of various organizations and agencies, including the VU Foundation.
While Osborne is still active in a number of other community activities, his fulltime avocation is working out the logistics, and the planning, for the myriad changes that are coming fast to the Indiana Military Museum, a not-for-profit entity that continues to grow and to serve as another focal point for local tourism.
In fact, the day after Osborne is to be honored at VU, the Knox County Chamber of Commerce will have its “Chamber After Hours” event at the Museum. There is an IMM Membership Drive scheduled for May 20 at the Harmony Society. In addition, Osborne has to coordinate the transport of a nuclear submarine conning tower (USS Indianapolis) from the West Coast, and plan the outdoor exhibition that has yet to be constructed — all to happen in May.
“We have a lot going on,” Osborne said. “We also have a dilemma in that we need help to build a new structure to house our restoration workshop and maintenance equipment, and we are trying to get a very rare World War I tank restored for a ceremony we hope to have in the fall.”
The dedication ceremony this fall will include Gen. George S. Patton’s grandson and other dignitaries, as it will coincide with other state and national events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of America’s involvement in World War I.
“The thing is that project isn’t over, as we still need to pay for it,” Osborne said.
The museum has been collecting bits and pieces for this tank over the years. Enough track pads needed for it, however, could never be found. The company which originally manufactured them are making replacements for the museum, but the tracks pads won’t be cheap.
“We’re going to sell ownership of the track pads,” Osborne said, adding that the sponsor will somehow be identified on the pad and will get other amenities. “Our event will be touted as a significant event (according to the National World War I Commission) to mark the war. We want to have that tank ready. There are only 20 of them — if that — in all of North America. We’re fortunate to have it.”
IMM receives grant
The Indiana Military Museum has been awarded $250,000 from the Indiana Department of Tourism, a grant that was matched with $250,000 locally. It has been designated to refurbish a huge warehouse into a permanent, large-scale exhibit area featuring dioramas and scenes from World War I to Vietnam.
“This was a very competitive grant and we’re fortunate to get it,” Osborne said. “The Department of Tourism has a lot of faith in what we’re doing.”
The problem, though, is that work on the warehouse exhibit cannot begin until another structure is built to house the museum restoration materials and maintenance equipment, things that are currently under roof in the warehouse.
“We need help,” Osborne said. “We’ve gotten about $24,000 so far toward a new structure, and we’re trying to find the least expensive way to get it done. But we’re going to need another $60,000 to $70,000 to make that happen.”
There are no paid employees at the Indiana Military Museum, a fact that surprised state tourism officials. Money donated to the museum is used for utilities, maintenance, and insurance. Thus far, it has been able to operate without going into debt.
“We are extremely grateful to our volunteers,” Osborne said. “They are devoted and dedicated. Some work as tour guide specialists, some on restoration, and others on upkeep and maintenance. We could not do this without them.”
The Indiana Military Museum was moved to its present site at 715 S. Sixth St. in 2012. It was incorporated in 1984.
Osborne began collecting military artifacts when he was 7 years old.
“Our neighbor was a World War II veteran and he was on his way to the trash pit with a box of things he was going to throw away,” Osborne said. “There was a German helmet, a flag, and some other things. He asked, ‘Do you want these?’ and I said yes! Other kids in the neighborhood had WW II equipment, so that put me on the same plane as the rest of them.”
While growing up he saw nearly every military or war movie that came out, as his father built drive-in theaters. He believes that, too, developed his interest in military history.
“The thing I always loved about museums is that you could actually see the artifacts and that made history come alive for me,” he said. “When you can see it and touch it, well, that made it real.”
The IMM’s goal is to educate younger people about their country’s history, Osborne said, but moreover, it is to remember and hold on to the tradition of honor and sacrifice men and women have made in service to their country.
The Indiana Military Museum is typically open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, from March 1 to Dec. 1. Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for veterans and seniors age 62-plus; $3 for children ages 6-18. Children 6 and under are free. World War II veterans get free admission.
Financial contributions are welcome, as are donations of artifacts. For this and more information, call the museum at 812-882-1941. Its website is indymilitary.com. The museum also has a Facebook page.
By Bernie Schmitt