Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 3, 2014

High-tech history

Howard County Museum unveils smartphone tour of Seiberling

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — The Howard County Museum unveiled Saturday a mobile tour of its Seiberling Mansion that allows patrons to scan QR codes with their smartphones or tablets and learn more about their favorite exhibits.

“The idea is to give them a good experience,” said Dave Broman, executive director of the Howard County Historical Society. “People are coming to expect technology.”

Broman started toying with the idea of a mobile device tour more than a year ago. Then the organization got some funding from the Greater Kokomo Convention and Visitors Bureau that allowed it to move forward with the project.

Broman said he spent months deciding what information and photographs to include with each exhibit on the tour.

He said he wanted to make sure it was enough to keep people interested and engaged.

Scan a code near the phonograph that sits on the main floor of the Seiberling, and you’ll see a photo of an old factory building pop up.

The photo, taken in 1915, shows the old building that became the home of Davis Industries in 1926. Look right below the image and you can read about the company’s history in the City of Firsts.

The company was headquartered in Chicago. In 1926 it looked to Kokomo to start a manufacturing plant to expand its mail-order radio business. It signed a contract to use the Haynes Automobile Assembly building and started installing equipment there in 1927, the mobile tour says.

The Kokomo plant became its chief manufacturing facility, assembling radio and phonograph cabinets and making cabinet novelties and furniture. But during the Great Depression, the company saw its orders plummet. It put its employees on part-time work to try to save the company. It didn’t work. Davis Industries shuttered its Kokomo facility on Friday, Sept. 26, 1930, according to the mobile tour.

You could also stand in front of the second floor exhibit of Dirilyte tableware and use your smartphone to read more about the company and see photos of the factory and of Harry Truman receiving a set of Dirilyte during his whistle-stop visit to Kokomo. Or you can see a tire made at Kokomo Rubber, read about the company’s invention of the pneumatic tire and see photos of the factory and the inventor, D.C. Spraker.

Don’t have a smartphone or tablet? Don’t worry. Standard cellphone users will be able to dial a local number and receive audio narrations that accompany museum exhibits.

Broman said this mobile tour is just another way for people to dig a little deeper into local history. Other museums around the country are already adopting the technology, but it’s something that’s still not widespread.

“We’re not at the leading edge, but we’re up toward the front in terms of these enhancements,” Broman said. “The world is changing, and we have to keep up with it.”

The mobile device tour of the mansion is phase three of the Howard County Heritage Tour. The first two phases of the project rolled out in the Old Silk Stocking District Walking Tour and the Downtown Kokomo Historical Architecture Walking Tour, which were developed by the Kokomo Historic Review Board.

Those tours explore the architectural features of local buildings. The new mobile tours of those areas allow people to learn more about the architecture and explore some of the interesting histories of the buildings.

Twenty-eight buildings in the Silk Stocking District and 23 buildings in downtown Kokomo are featured in the mobile tour, said Jerry Meiring, an advisor on the Historical Review Board.

Meiring said he’s hoping to reach a new audience with the high-tech tours.

“I think that the mobile tours are a new and exciting way to reach out to people, young and old, to help them learn about our wonderful local history,” he said. “We really just want to use all different kinds of communication to help people learn about architecture and the importance of historic preservation in our community."

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com or via Twitter @LindseyZiliak.

If you go The Seiberling Mansion reopened for the season on Saturday. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for kids 12 and under.