INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - One hundred years ago this month, Central Indiana suffered one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the state.
Soon, a local exhibit will show what it was like and hear the stories of people who were there through the Indiana Historical Society.
1913: A City Under Water is the latest in the society's You Are There series . The series uses artifacts and photographs along with actors cast in historical roles to put visitors inside a moment in time. Each scene is based around a single photograph of the actual event. Historical Society staffers painstakingly re-create the photograph inside a room of the Eugene and Marilyn Glick History Center.
The series has been a hit with visitors.
"I've always wanted to go back and see the past and be in it, and these displays give me the opportunity to do it," said Pat Hiatt.
Hiatt has said she has visited each of the You Are There displays. But she is particularly excited about A City Under Water because her family happens to play an important role in it. Hiatt's grandfather, Fred Heylmann, snapped a number of photographs from the same time period upon which the exhibit is based.
Historical Society staffers were thrilled to learn of the connection, because Hiatt has many stories to tell about the flood.
"I've just got all kinds of stories and fortunately I have a good memory and they are tucked away," she says.
To make sure that knowledge makes it into the exhibit, the organizers set up a meeting between Hiatt and Ben Phillippe, the actor who will portray her grandfather as a young man.
They looked over photos from Hiatt's family albums and talked about the stories that have been passed down through the generations.
Phillippe says the information will help him craft a character that can interact with visitors, reflect history accurately and satisfy his "new family."
Talking about the other actors who don't have living family members to draw from, Phillippe says, "(There's) less pressure than the other characters because they had to do more research, but more pressure in that I can't let them down."
In her sneak-peek in the days before the exhibit's debut, the detail in the converted room stuns Pat Hiatt.
She noted authentic-appearing Van Camps food cans, the rough-hewn wood walls that look identical to those in the original photo, and two live-action scenes in a "window" of what is actually a windowless space.
"It's so much easier and better to be able to touch that stuff than read about it in a paper," she said with a smile.
The exhibit opens next week at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center just northwest of the State Capitol on West Ohio Street.
Visitors who go will see some familiar WISH-TV faces, too, because another room of the exhibit includes a modern-style newscast featuring the actual news events of the first day of the flood.
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