The Yellow Trail Museum is located in northeastern Bartholomew County in downtown Hope.

The mission of the museum is to collect, preserve, research, interpret, and exhibit the genealogy, history, and artifacts of the communities within the Flat Rock and Hawcreek Townships in order to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the area’s unique history while further understanding how it fits into the larger historical narrative of Bartholomew County, the state of Indiana, and the nation.

The name “Yellow Trail” was given to the museum when it opened in 1975, as a nod to Elda Spaugh and his filling and service station that opened in 1915 and was located in the town of Hope. Spaugh marketed his business by painting yellow stripes on telephone poles and trees in the surrounding areas which help lead potential customers to Hope as well as his business. Spaugh left business cards in the surrounding towns urging people to follow the Yellow Trail.

The Yellow Trail Museum has spent the year, like many businesses, learning to adjust with the ebbs, flows, and restrictions that the current pandemic has required. And while the museum has experienced many loses this year, the current board members are excited to present some new, dramatic changes to the public in the new year.

The museum board hopes to continue most of its popular programs that many have grown to love, but there are two major changes that plan to be showcased in 2021: the renovations and expansion project and the grand opening of the Research Center which will be located in the new space.

The renovation of the adjoining buildings will be the future space of the Rural Mail Carrier’s exhibit that has been housed in storage since the previous building for the display, located in the town square, was torn down. Ed Johnson is heading up the renovation, and while it is ongoing, much progress has been made including: creation of an entryway between the existing museum space and new space, removal of old flooring exposing the original hardwood floor, and framing and dry walling of storage and exhibit areas, to name a few.

The Yellow Trail Research Center opened its doors in June 2017 after dedicated volunteers spent two years sorting and organizing materials including books, documents, photographs, scrapbooks, and more. Many of these materials were stored in a non-user friendly manner solely due to the lack of space to display them. With the acquisition and renovations of the new adjacent buildings, the Yellow Trail Research Center will have even more space to expand and will become a go-to-resource area for those wanting to dig into local or family history and genealogy.

“The Yellow Trail Research Center is more than books, photos, scrapbooks, documents, genealogy and history," said Kim Ray, the research center director. "We are a working Research Center, dedicated to preserving the past while making information available to researchers. Our work includes scanning photos for a wealthy of files for public use; scanning documents using OCR technology, which allows searches not just in the titles, but deep into the articles (like newspapers.com); and entering data on all our artifacts into a museum software program that will enhance the ability to do research by names, keywords, and so much more.

"Due to the outpouring of support and artifact donations since our beginning just a few years ago, the Museum Board has approved and expanded our area in one of the adjacent buildings. The Research Center will remain closed until the remodeling is complete and we have moved into that area. Please watch for news of our reopening in 2021. “

Similar to Ray and her time spent with the Research Center, board member, Kathie Clouse, has spent countless days and hours adding new and existing 3D objects into the museum software that Ray was able to obtain for the Research Center documents.

“My personal vision is to get all 3D objects into Past Perfect so that exhibits may be rotated and objects can be found to support new ideas for exhibits,” says Clouse.

The museum board envisions that the renovations, the grand opening of the Research Center, and the ability to create new exhibits while also rotating artifacts will appeal to previous patrons while also attracting new ones to the town as Spaugh did with his yellow trail campaign giving new meaning to the Yellow Trail Museum.

Article credit: Kathie Clouse, Yellow Trail Museum Board Member; Kim Ray, Yellow Trail Museum Research Library Director, Erin Anderson, Yellow Trail Museum Board Member and Publisher of The Trail Mix, & Jessica Brown, Yellow Trail Museum Secretary