If you rewind Indiana University to its early days, you inevitably end up at the Wylie House with the Wylie family. Andrew Wylie, IU’s first president, built the house in 1835, and five generations of Wylie family members occupied the property for over three-quarters of a century. Members of each generation attended or taught at IU, and you can catch glimpses of them everywhere, from the Eskenazi Museum of Art, which houses dozens of pieces donated by Wylie descendant Morton C. Bradley, Jr., to the newly created Wylie Innovation Catalyst Medal, which honors IU inventors in the tradition of cyclograph patentees Theophilus Wylie and Samuel Brown Wylie III.
The Wylie family were innovative, and the Wylie House was inclusive. Its many inhabitants included Elizabeth Breckenridge, a Black woman who worked for the Wylies and whose mother, Hannah McCaw, “had charge of the [Underground Railroad] station in Bloomington,”1 Harvey Young, who was IU’s first Black student, and Sarah Parke Morrison, who was the first woman student and faculty member at IU. Thanks to these challengers of the status quo, we Hoosiers all get to call the Wylie House home.
When Reba Wylie moved away from Bloomington in 1913, she wrote that she dreamed about the Wylie House “nearly every night.”2 French philosopher Gaston Bachelard wrote about this phenomenon in his book Poetics and Space; he claimed that “dwelling-places of the past remain in us for all time” because they become intertwined with our “thoughts, memories, and dreams.”3 That lasting impact is mutual; the Wylie House impacted the people who lived in it, but they also left their mark on the house.
In the 1960s, IU turned the Wylie House into a historic house museum furnished as it might have been in the 1840s. The house takes visitors back in time, but it also transcends that decade. So many individuals, all with different personalities and interests, lived in the house or were connected with it during the Wylies’ 78-year occupation that I believe a point of connection exists for everyone who is willing to look for it. This relatability is one of the Wylie House’s most compelling aspects.
I moved to Bloomington last fall for IU’s Master of Library Science program and soon began working at the Wylie House as an exhibition assistant. Our major event last spring, Call and Response: Creative Interpretations of Wylie House, displayed contemporary artwork created in honor of the property’s lesser-known voices, from the First Nations of Indiana to 1920s IU student Louise Bradley, who longed to be a famous writer and was poet Elizabeth Bishop’s first crush.
We must remember that the people who lived in the Wylie House were not just individuals; they were all connected, a family doing their best to love and support one another. It is powerful to think about IU as it exists today being a continuation of that atmosphere, especially in these isolating and uncertain times. Director Carey Champion inherited the Wylies’ hospitable, welcoming attitude, and she has focused on creating innovative ways—like Call and Response—to invite the community in.
We look forward to the day when everyone can visit us in person again, and we would love to connect with you in other ways before that happy day arrives. You can get involved now by taking a virtual tour, perusing our virtual exhibits, studying our archival collections, enrolling in a class that uses Wylie House resources, and keeping an eye on our website and social media for upcoming events.
 “Oratorical Contest: Mr. Willis O. Tyler Represented the Indiana University.” Indianapolis Recorder, 9 Feb. 1901, p. 1.
 Rebecca Wylie Grace to Louisa Wylie Boisen, 22 January 1914. The Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.
 Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Trans. Maria Jolas. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.