The newest "You Are There" experience at the Indiana History Center takes visitors to a time and place that many Indianapolis area residents might like to forget.
The latest exhibit is a recreation of a chapel built in 1943 by Italian prisoners of war at Camp Atterbury. Dan Shockley and the History Center crew started work on the experience two years ago not knowing how timely it would be.
“In 1943, 75 years ago, our nation was grappling with who belongs here and who doesn’t. We had Japanese internment camps and that is kind of a stain on our record," Shockley says. "But here we are talking about who doesn’t belong in America now, and who we want to leave and who we don’t want to let in.”
Three thousand Italian POWs were held at Camp Atterbury, where they built and decorated the Chapel on the Meadow, which still stands today. Shockley says the story of war, home and belonging is important for all ages; and visitors will hear those stories from the perspective of the POWs who are putting finishing touches on paintings that adorn the walls of the chapel.
“We have conversations in our 'You Are There' experiences. We don’t have presentations or performances," Shockley says. "It really is the actor and the guest creating their own experience each and every time.”
The 1943: Italian POWS at Atterbury experience runs through August of next year.