In Local History Services, we spend quite a bit of time in the company van traveling the state bringing exhibits to local organizations. Although many of these sites are museums or libraries, we have also been known to deliver them to senior living facilities, adult continuing education centers and even hospitals. Every site has its own needs and space restrictions, which is why the exhibits are designed to be flexible and provide the state-wide context to national stories. Some organizations have the exhibits stand alone and others incorporate their local story to match the topic. For instance, Local Treasures, an exhibit about Indiana’s post office murals, was recently at a senior living facility in northern Indiana. The facility displayed letter carrier badges from residents alongside the exhibit.
The exhibits cover a wide variety of topics, everything from prohibition and automobiles to World War I and cartoons. The Exhibits department at IHS has the giant task of creating an exhibit whose layout is flexible and whose content will work for the multitude of audiences who see the exhibits on the road – an audience that can be far less predictable than when we design for in-house exhibits. Our traveling exhibit audience in 2018 was nearly 200,000 individuals, so you can imagine the wide variety of visitors that encompassed!
The traveling exhibits program certainly keeps us on our toes. Some weeks we travel as far south as Evansville just to head as far north as South Bend a few days later. During the busy summer months, it is not uncommon for the majority of our 20 exhibits to be out of the building all at once and for the LHS team to rarely be in the office, all together, for more than a day or two each week. Although the traveling exhibit days can sometimes result in upwards of ten hours on the road in one day, none of us would change a single thing about it. Not only do we get to spend time seeing first-hand the amazing work being done by local organizations around the state but also seeing the variety of communities that make up our great state. From the rolling hills to the south, through the farm fields of central Indiana, to the animal pastures in the north, we love seeing Indiana in all her glory and spending time with the amazing people who preserve her history.