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The Indiana Experience: Step into a Photograph…and More!

If you’ve ever wanted to step into an old-time photograph to experience what was happening when the shot was taken, and what life was like back then, now’s your chance.

The Indiana Experience, presented by the Indiana Historical Society, offers visitors different 4 ways to learn about Indiana history.


You Are There

You Are There is an amazing exhibit which allows you to quite literally step into any one of 3 different ‘living’ recreations of historic photographs.

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Each scene is housed in its own self-contained space. To enter, you first pass through a mist of water onto which an ethereal image of the historic scene is projected, almost as if stepping through a portal in time.

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Once inside, it’s easy to imagine you have entered another period in time. Each room is a ‘stage set’ of sorts, complete with period actors and props. The actors respond in a manner consistent with the period in which their real-life characters lived. The result is a faithful reproduction of the photograph that hangs ‘outside the mist’. Compare the above photo to the photo below.

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“1904: Picture This” (above) recreates a Victorian-era photography studio operated by Charles Miner, an early 1900s Fort Wayne photographer known for fine portraits, enlargements and color work.

An incredible amount of detail went into the re-creation of this scene, down to the backgrounds Miner used in his studio, the camera technology, the Greek columns, and even the massive northern wall of windows, which he relied upon to achieve adequate lighting of his photographic subjects.

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And yes, you can actually have an old-style portrait photo taken in this studio!

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Another scene, “1913: A City Under Water,” recreates the Wulf’s Hall Relief Station, a tavern that was re-purposed to provide flood relief in the days following the Great Flood of 1913. It was one of the worst floods in Indiana history, one that destroyed the bridge at Washington Street as the river rose 6 feet in just 24 hours.

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You know some overtime went into this one, with its log cabin-esque wooden walls and numerous props, including perishable and non-perishable food, scales for weighing rationed items, clothing items, cleaning supplies and more, all of which were in great demand at the time of the flood. Actors play both flood relief providers and survivors.

“One of the activities that some of our younger guests can do when they come is help us pack rationed items. Students can help us pack rice and beans, and then actually learn how some of the food was distributed to the families,” explains media relations manager Amy Lamb.

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The third and final scene, entitled “1939: Healing Bodies, Changing Minds,” recreates the office of African-American physician Dr. Harvey Middleton, who is credited with being the first physician to use electrocardiographic technology in his practice, and in fact, used $500 of his own money to purchase the machine—a lot of money back then!

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Props include virtually everything you’d expect to find in a doctor’s office, including an old-style radio, the original electrocardiographic machine, eye chars, white lab coats, stethoscopes, various medicines, you name it.

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3 Other Ways to Enjoy The Indiana Experience

You Are There is just one of four different components that collectively make up The Indiana Experience.

Destination Indiana, is an innovative digital presentation of Indiana history that features an impressive 10-foot by 24-foot curved screen which plays various moments in history. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the experience is the so-called “2.5-D” effect, which makes use of clever ‘layering’ techniques to achieve quasi 3-D effect.

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A total of 8 “time-travel” stations, each capable of accommodating as many as 6 guests, offer immersive touch screen displays as a way of navigating through history.

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The above photo shows the conservation lab where Indiana Historic Society technicians work. Though this particular area is off limits to visitors, the observation wall offers a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes though large windows.

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The W. Brooks and Wanda Y. Fortune History Lab is a hands-on demonstration lab in which visitors are shown how to analyze historic documents, conduct genealogy searches, find clues in historic photographs and explore careers in history.

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The Cole Porter Room is a recreation of the Waldorf Astoria suite in which Cole Porter lived and played piano. Guests can sit down at a table and enjoy live vocal performances of Cole Porter songs, sung by professional vocalists.

Event Info

  • What: The Indiana Experience
  • When: Now through May, 2014
  • Where: Indiana Historical Society, 450 W Ohio St, Indianapolis, IN 46202
  • Website

Mike Woods