New exhibit looks at county’s history of transportation

<p>All it took was 30 cents, and local residents could be on their way to Indianapolis.</p>
<p>In the early 1900s, interurban electric trains cut straight through Johnson County. Passengers at stations in Edinburgh, Franklin and Greenwood could go to Indianapolis or south all the way to Louisville. For the first time, people had a relatively cheap and easy way to move around the region.</p>
<p>The interurban faded out after a few decades. But the impact it had is still seen today, from the connectivity of local cities to the names of well-known streets such as Stop 18 and Stop 11 roads.</p>[sc:text-divider text-divider-title="Story continues below gallery" ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery
<p>“People in small towns were traveling outside of their own little area. The interurban connected town to city, and then city to city,” said Emily Spuhler, curator at the Johnson County Museum of History. “It was such a big part of life for for many people in Johnson County.”</p>
<p>The history of the interurban, and all transportation in Johnson County, is the focus of the newest permanent exhibit opening at the museum on Thursday. “Roads, Rails and Runways: The Transportation History of Johnson County” tells the story of how the way people moved around shaped our communities.</p>
<p>People will learn about how pioneer roads led people to settle in the area, how railways and interurbans made travel accessible to more people, and the importance that an airport can have even in a smaller county.</p>
<p>“When you look at it, Johnson County was almost a centerpoint for so many different modes of transportation,” Spuhler said. “You can see the changes that transportation made in general through Johnson County eyes because they witnessed it.”</p>
<p>The exhibit will be housed in the lower level of the museum. Visitors will walk in to find a miniature replica of the interurban station that was at one time located at Madison and Main streets in Franklin. Formerly a model of a log cabin, the structure has been converted to match the station after museum officials found a photograph depicting it.</p>
<p>Local artist Kira Brant will be painting a plywood version of an interurban car.</p>
<p>“You’ll have that feel that it’s coming right around the corner,” said David Pfeiffer, director at the museum.</p>
<p>Display panels will tell the stories of early roads. Visitors can run their hands over the different materials used to make roads in the 1800s, and imagine what it was like to travel over gravel, planks, logs and dirt.</p>
<p>The Indiana Department of Transportation donated a cylindrical core, taken during a highway construction project, to show how layers of gravel, concrete, dirt and asphalt make the roads we drive on.</p>
<p>Pfeiffer worked with the Indiana State Museum for a display that lets people feel what early roads were like.</p>
<p>“When people complain about road construction on I-65, we can say, ‘It could be worse,’” Pfeiffer said.</p>
<p>An antique airplane propeller will stretch over a back wall. Historic images and postcards will create a picture of the different ways people moved around. Through a grant program, the museum was able to purchase a touchscreen display that will let people discover more about the interurban’s routes and role it played in daily life.</p>
<p>“It’s really important to show, not just how we’re connected to Indiana, but to the rest of the country as well,” Pfeiffer said. “We were at the Crossroads of America.”</p>
<p>Though the museum rotates new displays and exhibits into different spaces throughout the year, a majority of the exhibits are established: pioneer life, the Civil War and 20th-century Johnson County, among other topics.</p>
<p>The transportation exhibit is a story that was important enough to join those permanent displays, and had been percolating in museum officials’ minds for years.</p>
<p>“There are so many aspects of (transportation) that are overlooked in Johnson County, because we see them all the time,” Pfeiffer said.</p>
<p>The space where it will be housed was unused, only recently being occupied by artifacts and information about Tom and Dick Van Arsdale and their basketball careers.</p>
<p>As Pfeiffer and Spuhler researched and combed through their collection over time, they realized that they had all of the necessary pieces to make it work.</p>
<p>Museum studies students from IUPUI worked with the museum to help generate ideas for the exhibit, Pfeiffer said.</p>
<p>They found old photographs, time tables for the interurban, maps from the 1800s and newspaper clippings about the opening of interstate highways and airports such as Franklin Flying Field and the Indy South Greenwood Airport.</p>
<p>“Our job is to collect material from Johnson County and tell history through their eyes how it affected Johnson County,” Spuhler said. “We have these specific modes in the county. We have the artifacts and information on them here.”</p>
<p>Along the way, they found some surprising facts about the county’s transportation history. For example, the section of Interstate 65 including Johnson County was the last piece in Indiana. At the time in 1972, people bragged that you could drive from Louisville to Gary without hitting a stoplight, Pfeiffer said.</p>
<p>Edinburgh had formerly been spelled “Edinburg,” only to go back to its original Scottish spelling in the 1970s, Snyder said.</p>
<p>Another unique fact is that Interstate 69, which will come through western Johnson County when that stretch is built, was only originally supposed to be a small highway linking Indianapolis with the turnpike in the northern part of the state, Pfeiffer said.</p>
<p>With the prevalence of the interurban in the early 1900s, accidents with automobiles were a common occurrence in Johnson County.</p>
<p>“That’s how intertwined they were,” Spuhler said. “They were so close to each other when they were both using the roads.”</p>
<p>The exhibit opens Thursday with a reception at the museum. Pfeiffer and Spuhler will give an overview of the history, they’ll do a ribbon cutting and appetizers and refreshments will be offered.</p>
<p>The hope is that people get a better understanding about something they experience every day but maybe never consider.</p>
<p>“We always go for that ‘a-ha’ moment, for something they didn’t know about. So learning about the railroads or the history of some of those early roads, there’s things there that that didn’t know about,” Pfeiffer said. “People kind of overlook how much transportation impacts Johnson County.”</p>[sc:pullout-title pullout-title="If you go" ][sc:pullout-text-begin]<p>"Road, Rails and Runways: Transportation History of Johnson County"</p>
<p>Exhibit opening</p>
<p>When: 6 p.m. Thursday</p>
<p>Where: Johnson County Museum of History, 135 N. Main St., Franklin</p>
<p>What will be featured: Museum director David Pfeiffer and curator Emily Spuhler will give a presentation on the new exhibit, then a ribbon cutting will be held. Appetizers and refreshments will be served.</p>