One moment, visitors to the Indiana History Center are sitting in a futuristic console in front of a massive flatscreen display. Then with little more than a point, touch and swipe of your finger, you’ve tumbled into a wormhole of Johnson County history.
Video displays on the construction of the Johnson County courthouse led to a streetscape of turn-of-the-century Greenwood, before veering into the life of Franklin native Gov. Roger Branigin.
Visitors to the revamped Destination Indiana exhibition at the Indiana History Center are warned that it was easy to get lost in nearly 200 years of past culture.
“Whatever you’re interested in, and whatever your connection is to Indiana, you’ll find it somehow in that gallery,” said John Herbst, president and CEO of the Indiana Historical Society. “If fashion is your thing, you can go in and look at the styles of things people are wearing. If transportation is your thing, you can look at all of the modes of transportation. Whatever you want to zoom in on and look at, you can do.”
With tens of thousands of photographs, documents and other historical items — more than even the greatest history buff could sort through — the Indiana History Center has turned its massive collection into a journey through time.
By digitizing its items and modernizing the way people explore them, history center officials hope to open up the past in ways that people have never seen before.
“This is a great way to see the historic photographs and documents from deep inside the IHS archival collections,” Herbst said. “We have so many materials in the collection, and we are always looking for new material to bring to the public, to have people know what’s here.”
Destination Indiana was unveiled in 2010. The technology let people poke through the history center’s collection in a limited way.
But with an upgrade, the system has been vastly improved, Herbst said.
“The great thing about Destination Indiana is that you are in the driver’s seat. You decide what they’re going to visit, you decide how close you want to see detail on things,” he said. “You can back out, go to another journey. No one is telling you what you should be interested in.”
Working with PLOW Digital, an Indianapolis-based interactive development company, the historical society was able to develop an interactive touchscreen that let people chose which historical paths they wanted to follow.
Like you do with a cellphone or a tablet, people swipe and poke through their journey.
“It’s funny to think that in five or six years, technology that was fresh when we put it in could be outdated,” Herbst. “So we really had to make these changes and keep up with history.”
Destination Indiana is divided into two separate features. A large theater setup lets groups can experience one of the history center’s main “journeys” together.