The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) celebrates the Indianapolis bicentennial with a new exhibit inviting guests to step back in time to a scene featuring characters who worked on the city’s centennial pageant.
You Are There 1920: Celebrate Indianapolis! opens to the public today, Sept. 18, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis. The exhibit experience gives visitors a glimpse into the long and complex history of a city and its people. It will remain open until Aug. 6, 2022.
In the You Are There portion of the exhibit, visitors meet Mrs. Anna S. Casanges and members of the Handcraft Guild who are finalizing costumes as the centennial pageant opening looms just days away. Other characters include director George Somnes, playwright William O. Bates, “Indiana” actress Mrs. Jessica Brown and “Indianapolis” actress Mrs. Myra Reynolds Richards.
This experience is based on the actual pageant script in the Indiana Historical Society’s William H. Smith Memorial Library archival collections and last-minute costumes being created for the pageant participants. Visitors have the opportunity to explore a variety of topics with exhibit interpreters, such as Native Americans and Indian removal, the first pioneers, city development and expansion, local businesses, government, technological progress, home life, prohibition, crime, health, education, entertainment, racial issues, women’s roles and xenophobia.
Outside of the You Are There experience with the actors, visitors are able to explore a vibrant collection of images and objects that span the history of Indianapolis — from a ledger that belonged to one of the area’s first white residents to a poem written during the COVID-19 pandemic. The items represent a cross-section of the vast materials contained in the Indiana Historical Society archives and offer the opportunity to see some of the unique historical documentation acquired over the last two years as part of IHS’s Indianapolis Bicentennial Collecting Initiative.
“A central focus of the exhibition is an examination of how the built environment of the city hides in plain sight the consequences of past decisions and policies,” said IHS Director of Exhibits Research Daniel Gonzales. “To that end, the center of the room contains a massive animated map showing how Indianapolis grew and changed over its 200-year history.”
Surrounding the map are touch screen kiosks where visitors can explore images of Indianapolis history divided and organized by geographic region. Fun activities like a visitor response station and an interactive train table for all ages based on Indianapolis at the turn of the 20th century provide opportunities for deeper engagement.
In addition, an augmented reality mobile app — “Celebrate Indianapolis” — will allow visitors to explore personal stories from Indianapolis’s history brought to life by IHS Museum Theater actors. After downloading the app, viewers can choose from a menu of 10 Indianapolis residents, including Major Taylor, Eli Lilly and Madam C.J. Walker. Then, using GPS technology, they will be transported to a specific location in the city that played a significant role in the life of that individual, and an IHS actor dressed in a period-appropriate costume will tell that person’s story. The free app will be available in early October through the App Store and Google Play.
You Are There 1920: Celebrate Indianapolis! is presented by the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation and the R.B. Annis Educational Foundation and supported by the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Inc., and Former Lt. Governor John Mutz and Carolyn Mutz, with contributing support from the Lacy Foundation.
The Indianapolis Bicentennial Mobile App is presented by the R.B. Annis Educational Foundation and supported by OneAmerica Financial Partners.
Museum Theater is presented by the Nicholas H. Noyes, Jr., Memorial Foundation, Inc. and supported by the Arts Council and the City of Indianapolis. Costume cleaning support is from Tide Cleaners. The Living the Legacy Bicentennial Program Series is made possible through a grant from Indiana Humanities, in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities, and from The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate. The Indianapolis History Collecting Initiative is made possible by a generous grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.
The exhibit is included with admission to the Indiana Experience, which is $13 for adults, $12 for seniors and $5 for kids (ages 5-17). IHS members and children younger than 5 receive free admission. For more information about this exhibit and other IHS offerings, call (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org.