“You Are There: That Ayres Look” Open at Indiana History Center
By Amy Lamb
Indiana Historical Society
The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) will debut a new concept in its storytelling with You Are There: That Ayres Look, stretching the interpretation of its popular You Are There format. The exhibit opened March 14, 2015 and will be available through Aug. 6, 2016 as part of the Indiana Experience at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center. The History Center is located at 450 W. Ohio St., along the canal in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.
The IHS exhibitions team knew it had a winning story on its hands following the success of its book L.S. Ayres & Company: The Store at the Crossroads of America, written by Kenneth L. Turchi. The business spent more than a century catering to the needs of Hoosiers—and captured their hearts along the way.
Rather than centering on the story told through a single photograph, That Ayres Look highlights many stories from more than a century of the company’s history—and intermingles traditional techniques and emerging technology.
As with past You Are There spaces, the journey still begins with a walk through a fog screen, as guests step through an image of the iconic Ayres department store clock. On the other side is a half-scale, blank replica of the downtown landmark. By pointing a provided iPad at the clock, an augmented reality experience will begin—creating the illusion, complete with sound, of two workers cleaning the icon in the late 1930s.
The use of new technology doesn’t end with the entrance of the space. Guests will encounter virtual “dress” display mannequins on monitors, allowing them to witness ever-changing fashion, patterns, colors, hemlines and silhouettes of the decades that comprised what became known as “That Ayres Look.”
Guests can also interact with costumed actors representing historical real-life characters from 1959, such as owner Lyman Ayres II, Ayres Fashion Bureau director Elizabeth Patrick and Ayres model Bea Fatout. IHS has also created videos that celebrating different facets of the Ayres story—including the business, family, fashions and shopping experience.
As visitors continue through the gallery, they will encounter historical photographs, documents, artifacts and videos to provide a multi-faceted illustration of the company, its people and its innovations. IHS will also display original items borrowed or donated from individuals, and additional clothing items and other artifacts are on loan from the Indiana State Museum.
Guests will learn about the early growth of the company, the family behind it, the company culture that fostered a high level of customer service, innovation and respect for its employees; the dynamic environment where cutting-edge ideas were developed; the lasting memories L.S. Ayres made for people during the holidays; and the Ayr-Way off-shoot that was a forerunner of future discount retailers.
Another included Ayres tradition is one of Indianapolis’ most cherished and famous seasonal residents. The Ayres cherub, which has never been on view outside of its resting place atop the downtown clock, is on loan from Downtown Indy and will reside inside the exhibit when she’s not performing her holiday duties.
You Are There: That Ayres Look is presented by Ayres Foundation Inc. and Nancy Ayres, with support from Nicholas H. Noyes, Jr., Memorial Foundation, Inc. and Lisa Carrington Bohn; Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Peter Nicholas; and Griffith Family Foundation, Inc.
You Are There: That Ayres Look is Included with Indiana Experience admission. For more information about this and other IHS programs, call (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org.