Indiana Historical Society's History on Wheels

Double slideout customized trailer provides 1,000 sq. ft.

The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) is bringing the state's history to citizens with History on Wheels. Custom designed and built by Featherlite Trailers, the trailer housing the History on Wheels museum is a 53 ft long, 13 ft-5 in tall and 8 ft-6 in aluminum 2-axle trailer with two slideouts that expand for nearly 1,000 sq ft of interior space.

The History on Wheels trailer displays Indiana's rich automotive and racing history to Hoosiers in communities across the state through the use of interactive touchscreen monitors and static displays. It's a new way to experience history and will help the IHS bring a state-of-the-art history attraction to a wider audience.

Planning Process

"The idea of using a double-expandable semi-trailer to house an exhibit on the history of Indiana automobiles seemed like a natural fit," says Curt Barsic, Project Manager at the Indiana Historical Society. "Partnering with Featherlite to make our vision a reality was a good fit since they are the industry leader in custom-built trailers."

IHS wanted to provide guests with a complete spectrum of Indiana's automotive and racing history with History on Wheels. To accomplish that, they needed more room than a regular trailer could provide. After researching their options and talking with several museums as well as state organizations throughout the country who had similar traveling exhibits, IHS's staff determined Featherlite Trailers was the right partner for their project.

"Mark Ackley (Segment Sales Manager at Featherlite) understood what we were trying to accomplish with the exhibit," adds Barsic. "He made sure that the trailer we were planning to build would meet our needs today and in the future. He helped us think through everything; the power required for the displays, foot-traffic through the exhibit, the type of interior desired, lighting, air-conditioning and how we would load and unload exhibits efficiently. We came up with a customized solution that will fit our needs for many years to come."

After finalizing plans for the trailer build, the IHS graphic artists designed exterior trailer graphics that were applied by the team at Featherlite Graphics to create an original design that would grab people's attention traveling down the road and during exhibit hours.

The IHS History of Wheels trailer was completed in under four months. Featherlite delivered a one-of-a-kind trailer that IHS could further customize with historical displays and exhibits.

"We are pleased with the quality of the trailer build and how sharp the graphics look," comments Barsic.

Trailer Features

IHS's custom built Featherlite trailer includes two slideouts that extend the internal space to almost 1,000 sq ft, providing ample room for the organization's historical displays. The slideouts are 6 ft deep and 36 ft long and 7 ft deep and 38 ft long respectively. When retracted the slideouts nest inside each other and when open, there is a 21 ft flat floor across from outboard wall-to-wall.

"Featherlite's self-supporting rigid-body slideouts were a strong selling point," says Barsic. "All the other options we considered required a "load-lock" type mechanism to be placed under each slideout. This was not ideal for safety reasons and for the extra work it would require of our driver and staff."

The trailer also has a 2,000 lb freight liftgate for loading exhibits while also doubling as the grand entrance. IHS's staff simply lowers the gate and hooks up a set of stairs for entering and exiting the trailer. Overhead, the backend of the trailer gate flips up and hinges to the top to form a canopy that shields guests who are waiting in line from the weather. The result is a welcoming covered porch that leads into the exhibit.

Powering the displays and an air-conditioning unit that will keep the exhibit cool on the warmest Indiana days is a 40-kW generator. There are several power outlets running along the floor and exterior walls to make hooking up electronic displays fast and easy. The ceiling of the trailer is lined with museum-quality LED lighting, and the floor has durable rubber-coin flooring.

The trailer's driver and exhibit facilitator can go from transporting to display-ready in under three hours, and there is little manual labor involved with getting everything set up.

Hitting the road

The mobile museum will hit the road in 2017 and plans to get involved with several local festivals and special events. IHS anticipates visiting 50 of Indiana's 92 counties over the next five years and expects to build to an annual attendance of at least 70,000 visitors.

"We are thrilled to be able to bring Indiana's history to communities throughout the state," explains Barsic. "The History on Wheels exhibit will educate and entertain everyone, from car and racing enthusiasts to the general public."

About Indiana Historical Society

Since 1830, the IHS has been Indiana's StorytellerTM, connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state's history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, IHS maintains the nation's premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest and presents a unique set of visitor experiences called the Indiana Experience. IHS also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups; publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; produces and hosts art exhibitions, museum theater and outside performance groups; and provides youth, adult and family programming. IHS is a Smithsonian Affiliate and a member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

IHS is headquartered in the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in downtown Indianapolis.