Over the past several weeks, I have had the good fortune of several chance meetings with Chris Flook, a local historian/author/journalist/educator, so, like pretty much everything awesome. Chris, a Muncie native and Ball State alum, was kind enough to answer some questions about the future of Muncie’s past!
Can you start by giving us your official titles, and tell us how long you've been in your positions?
Sure! I am currently a Lecturer of Telecommunications at Ball State University. I’ve been teaching in this position since 2008. I am also the president of the Delaware County Historical Society. I’ve been president since July, but I have been a board member since 2014.
Lots of people have noted what Andy Shears (Muncie Map Co.) called a "continued Renaissance" in Muncie. How do your past, currents, and upcoming projects impact the changes taking place in our community?
Andy is right, there is definitely a cultural renaissance happening in Muncie - art, history, food, craft beer, community pride, and general quality of life tend to all be on the rise here in Muncie. For me, the projects that I have been a part of, or the ones that I advise at BSU, are generally geared towards local history. In 2012, I advised a project about local historic districts in Muncie (Historic Muncie), in 2013, my students produced Lenape on the Wapahani River about the Lenape/Delaware Native Americans in east-central Indiana, in 2014, my students and I produced A Legacy Etched in Glass about the Ball brothers in Muncie, and in 2015, we worked on a similar project for the George and Frances Ball Foundation. Through the historical society, I have a bi-monthly column ByGone Muncie in the Star Press and I have written two books, Native Americans of East-Central Indiana and Beech Grove Cemetery Comes to Life. In all cases, the goal is to solidify the importance of local history, but also educate the public about how unique and exciting the evolution is for Muncie and Delaware County. It is my hope the projects help us all to better understand how we got where we are, but also inform us about the foundations of our community and what might be done to improve things going forward.
With the rise in popularity of nonfiction media, lots of people have a newfound interest in historical matters. What are the prime amateur entry points, or in other words, "How does one history?"
I would recommend that people who are interested in local history, get involved with the Delaware County Historical Society. We’ve recently worked hard to make the DCHS a more viable non-profit institution in Muncie. When volunteers come in to help, they can work with our existing programs, where they will learn a great deal, or they can work on their own research projects, or programming. Basically, we feel that historical discovery is an active process, where people can take part directly. We also do enough programming throughout the year and distribute enough stuff that even passive members can learn a great deal if they just pay attention.
What are some of the coolest queries that have been brought to the Delaware County Historical Society? Alternately, what are some of the most unexpected answers you have found them?
Lots of BSU students come in and what to know if there house was haunted, which of course, isn’t, but we use it as a way to help guide them on local research. We receive a great deal of genealogical inquiries and requests for old business addresses and such. Nothing to radically unexpected, but we do find some oddities from time to time that appear in the histories.
Who or what would you say are the most interesting local legends? Which ones are based on fact? Are there any that need to be Myth Busted?
LOTS of cool, odd, and unique elements about local history. I try to write about a lot of them (at least the stuff I find) in my bi-monthly ByGone Muncie column for the Star Press. You can see them all here: http://www.thestarpress.com/search/chris%20flook/
The biggest myth-busted is the whole ‘bend in the river protects us from tornadoes because of an Indian legend,’ which is totally false. We’ve had dozens of tornadoes in city limits, including one that went over the bend in the river. Also, there was never a Chief Musee, which so many people thing. Musee is a dialect of the Lenape people.
What are the biggest remaining mysteries in Muncie's history?
For me, the biggest mysteries are about the Native American groups that lived here thousands of years ago. This is more in the realm of anthropology than history, but there is an enormous amount of human history that happene
d right here in east-central Indiana that we just don’t know enough about. If I was wealthy, I’d donate an enormous amount of money to the Applied Anthropology Lab at BSU so they can do proper investigation.
Beyond that, there are tons of little stories, interesting anecdotes, and untold stories that when, taken together, have a big impact on how we understand daily life in Delaware County.