Indiana Experience Brings the Past to Life

Strategy: Balance Your Budget, Enhance Your Product, Know Your Customer/Product, Serve Local Community, Take Advantage of Tech

Type of attraction: Museum/Historic Site

Summary: For almost 200 years the Indiana Historical Society has preserved, interpreted and shared the state’s history through its research library and archives as well as its publication and programming endeavors.

For almost 200 years the Indiana Historical Society has preserved, interpreted and shared the state’s history through its research library and archives as well as its publication and programming endeavors, living up to its mission to be Indiana’s Storyteller ™, connecting people to the past.  As museum-goers’ expectations were changing in the early 21st century to desire an interactive experience, the Society’s leaders realized their huge collections – including 1.6 million photographs and thousands of documents – provided the perfect opportunity to create unique experiences using cutting-edge technology. 

In beginning of the planning process, the Society’s leaders took into account factors that were critical to success in difficult economic times : creating an experience that would appeal to their target audiences as well as attracting new audiences and recruiting new sponsors. To address the question of audiences, the Society shared ideas and solicited feedback from focus groups on what guests would like to see and do.

Once a plan emerged, the Society next obtained sponsors for specific parts of the new experiences, in particular the plans to bring photographs to life. After being closed for a year to renovate the Society’s headquarters and prepare the new experience components, the Indiana Experience opened in March 2010. The Indiana Experience centers on four major components and accompanying programs will be offered.

You Are There –Guests begin by walking through the “mists of time” on which a historic photograph is projected. After passing through the image, they encounter first-person interpreters who bring the photograph to life and interact with the guests. The first scenes created were “You Are There 1945: Hoosier Home Front” which recreated a grocery store in Terre Haute, “You Are There 1924: Tool Guys and Tin Lizzies” showcasing a 1924 repair shop in Hartford City, and “You Are There 1914: the Violin Maker Upstairs,” which gives a glimpse into instrument making and repair in turn-of-the-century Indianapolis. “When we say ‘authentic’ we mean it,” says Amy Lamb, media relations manager. “For example, everything in the grocery store is recreated exactly as it was in the picture – right down to the labels on the cans. We have had a great response. People tear up – they say it reminds them of their hometown grocery store when they were growing up.” New sponsors will continue to be solicited, and new “You Are There” environments will be created every nine to 12 months.

Destination Indiana – This experience area uses cutting-edge technology including digital technology, touch screens and immersive displays to create journeys using visuals from the collection. There are eight “drive yourself” time-travel stations which can accommodate up to five people as well as a large group experience on its 22.5-foot by 7.5-foot screen. The 2010 launch included information from each of Indiana’s 92 counties. Guests can choose a geographically or topically based journey and enjoy exploring stories of Indiana’s Civil War history, African-American heritage, the Ohio River and others. Guests will be invited to share their ideas and new journeys will be created as more sponsors are recruited.

Fortune History Lab – This new lab offers basic instruction by facilitators in how to preserve treasured documents. Also offered are INvestigation Stations which show guests how to use primary sources, find clues in archival materials and research their own history to tell the story of their family.

The Cole Porter Room – This room is a tribute to Indiana’s famous musical son. Designed to capture spirit of Waldorf Astoria, the setting includes a player piano with a live singer as well as a video tribute to Porter.

For more information, visit or contact Amy Lamb, Media Relations Manager, at; 317-232-1878.