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Tuesday through Saturday10 a.m. - 5 p.m
Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
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Indiana Experience Admission $15 Adults$14 Seniors (60 and over)$5 Youth (ages 5 through 17)$2 Access Pass HoldersFree Children under 5Free IHS MembersFree Educators and Military Free parking with admission in IHS lot off New York Street.

New Exhibit at the Indiana Historical Society Highlights Changes in Modes of Transportation

June 1, 2023

The Indiana Historical Society (IHS)’s newest exhibit, Rivers, Rails and Roads, opens June 10 at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis.

The exhibit showcases sketches, photographs and maps to illustrate the changes in transportation over time as well as first-person texts and oral histories that explain what it was like to use and work for various modes of transportation.

People have traveled across Indiana for thousands of years. Before and just after contact with Europeans, Indigenous peoples connected their communities with networks of rivers and trails. With European explorers, fur traders and settlers came new vehicles of transport, such as flatboats, keelboats and horse-, mule- or oxen-drawn carriages and wagons. In the 1800s, steamboats became a popular and more convenient form of river travel.

Unfortunately for late 18th and early 19th-century travelers, the quality of roads left much to be desired. It wasn’t until the 1830s that canal building and road and rail construction began in earnest, and road paving methods didn’t improve until after the Civil War.

Horse-drawn buggies and streetcars handled much of the transportation within towns and cities throughout Indiana, while interurban lines connected Hoosiers to friends and family around the state and across state lines.

While automobiles were available in the late 1800s, it wasn’t until the creation of affordable models — such as the Ford Model T or Indiana’s own McIntyre IMP Cyclecar — in the 1910s that they began to dominate the market. With this transition, highway systems were created. For already-developed cities like Indianapolis, the construction of these highways resulted in the destruction of many buildings and communities.

The IHS collections contain numerous photographs and drawings recording transportation technologies from before Indiana statehood to the present day. These include examples of steamboats traversing the Ohio River as well as some of the many automobiles manufactured locally by Indiana companies.

IHS also holds many oral history project transcripts and recordings. The Indiana Extension Homemakers Association Oral History Project, 1980-1990 contains more than 340 interviews of women who were members of the Indiana Extension Homemakers, an association started in 1913 to assist rural homemakers with skills to handle everyday taskwork. Many of these women recalled when automobiles were still new and uncommon.

In addition, the Raul and Rogelia Piñon Latino Oral History Project Interview was conducted by IHS Multicultural Collections Coordinator Nicole Martinez-LeGrand. In this interview, Raul and Rogelia Piñon share their experiences as first-generation Mexican immigrants in the United States, including the challenge they faced when attempting to purchase an automobile.

Also, the Getting There: Oral Histories About Transportation in Michigan City project includes interviews with railway employees and an activist for the preservation of the South Shore Rail Line, one of very few interurban railways still in operation today. These interviews were created through the Michigan City Public Library and are available to IHS through Indiana University Northwest.

Rivers, Rails and Roads opens to the public June 10 and runs through October 28, 2023. The exhibit is supported by Emerson B. and Jane H. Houck Endowment for Hoosier Photography.

The History Center will also offer free admission on Thursdays during the summer, June 1 to July 27, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information about IHS, go to

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