Minnetrista exhibit reflects on historical Ball Brothers Corporation impact in 'Jarring Our Memories'

<p>Minnetrista&#x27;s &quot;Jarring Our Memories&quot; exhibit displays original artifacts, photos and oral history from the Ball Brothers Corporation factory plant. The exhibit aims to teach visitors local history and highlight the plant&#x27;s impact on Muncie. <strong>Kyle Smedley, DN</strong></p>

Minnetrista's "Jarring Our Memories" exhibit displays original artifacts, photos and oral history from the Ball Brothers Corporation factory plant. The exhibit aims to teach visitors local history and highlight the plant's impact on Muncie. Kyle Smedley, DN

Learn more about “Jarring Our Memories”

The “Jarring Our Memories” exhibit aims to showcase the relationship between the Ball Brothers Corporation and the City of Muncie.

Visitors of the exhibit will find photos, original objects and oral history in the form of six listening stations that have four “memories” each. These memories are all from different employees who shared their stories from their years working for the Ball Brothers Corporation. 

Each station has its own separate theme, such as “Bracing for Change” and “Working the Line.” 

Transcripts of the oral history memories are also available to read.

Face masks are required to enter Minnetrista. The "Jarring Our Memories" exhibit closes at 5 p.m. Aug. 1.

Source: Nalleli Guillen, Minnetrista associate director of curation and exhibition

 For more than 100 years, Ball canning jars were manufactured in Muncie and plant workers developed many memories working for the Ball Brothers Corporation and cementing Muncie’s history as a manufacturing city. 

The Minnetrista “Jarring Our Memories” exhibit aims to highlight and share those memories with the local community. Nalleli Guillen, Minnetrista associate director of curation and exhibition, said she created the project to fill a gap in the event calendar and to display a “more in-house exhibit.” 

The goal of the exhibit, Gullien said, is to “encourage people to talk and share.” Minnetrista staff set up the room so visitors could learn about previous employees’ memories of the Ball Brothers Corporation and share their own.

“Subconsciously, we hoped to bring back the community of Muncie,” Gullien said.

Gordon Stagge worked at the Ball Brothers Corporation for 41 years and at Minnetrista for four years afterward after retiring in 1997.

Stagge graduated from Valparaiso University in 1962 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy shortly after. But, when he took his physical, he learned he had a health condition that barred him from serving on the force. Stagge was looking for work when he found the Ball Brothers Corporation. At the time, Ball Brothers had three plants in the country, one of which was located in Illinois, where he first started. Stagge was transferred to the Muncie plant early in his career. 

A listening station in the Minnetrista "Jarring Our Memories" exhibit showcases audio from former workers at the Muncie Ball Brothers factory plant. The exhibit has six different stations — each with its own theme — with four memories each. Kyle Smedley, DN

Stagge said he enjoyed working at the corporation for so long and he followed a strict schedule each day. He found consistent structure and direction comforting. During his years at Ball Brothers Corporation, Stagge was the plant production supervisor and director of credit and cash management. 

“It was a very conservative company in that everything was by the book,” he said. “Everything was done by assignment. People parked in the same parking spot every day. People all got coffee at 9 a.m. in the same break room and all went to work at 9:20 a.m. every single day.”

Stagge said the Ball Brothers Corporation was influential to Muncie and still is. 

“Ball Brothers Corporation is Muncie,” he said.

Stagge met his wife once he moved to Muncie, and has never left. He lives nextdoor to Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns. Stagge has also met members of the Bracken family, including Alexander Bracken — whom Ball State’s Bracken Library is named after.

One of Stagge’s favorite memories from working for the Ball Brothers Corporation, he said, was meeting Ed Ball in the hallways of the factory in 1962, just after Stagge started working there.

Stagge said he saw Ball while on his way to the station for work.

“‘Call me Ed,’” was what Stagge said Ball replied to his greeting. “‘What’s your name?’”

Ever since that day Stagge introduced himself, he said Ball never forgot his name.

Stagge said the Ball Brothers Corporation felt like a family and still does. Its history is built into the roots of Muncie and East Central Indiana, even after the local factory plant closed in 2019.

Guillen said Minnetrista hopes to grow its local history exhibits after “Jarring Our Memories” closes Aug. 1. While it may have been created as a summer calendar placeholder, she said it is much more than that. Gullien said this exhibit and all others at Minnetrista are there to “bring more color to the community.”

She said, “We are looking to expand and become an even more welcoming and interesting space.”

Contact Kyle Smedley with comments at kyle.smedley@bsu.edu.   

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