Touring the Studebaker National Museum
For Studebaker fans, the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana is a rare treasure. Over a century of Studebaker history comes to life as tourists discover interesting facts and displays about the Studebaker family, the company and its amazing vehicles.
The museum dates back to the 1890s, when Studebaker Corporation began developing its own private museum collection. From its start until the 1920s, the collection grew to include the carriages of President Lincoln and Lafayette, the company's final farm wagon, the first automobile that was built completely in South Bend, Indiana, and also military vehicles from WWII. The collection grew even larger over the years and by 1966 there were 37 automobiles in the collection.
The collection was donated to the City of South Bend in 1966 by Studebaker Corporation. It was displayed at several locations: a former Administration Building, the Drewery's building, and the Waterworks Maintenance Shop. Then, in 1977, the collection was moved to the Century Center's Discover Hall Museum. In 1982 the museum obtained the Freeman-Spicer Studebaker dealership building, which gave it more space. This would become the first home of the Studebaker National Museum.
In 1985 the Studebaker National Museum incorporated, and in 1992 all displays and exhibits were consolidated and housed in the Freeman-Spicer Building. The museum archives were relocated to the south side of South Bend. Among the archives you can find artifacts, records and manuscripts that belonged to the Studebaker Corporation. There are also archives from the Packard Motor Car Company and other local industries of South Bend. Initially, Studebaker Corporation records had been donated in 1966 to Syracuse University, but then returned to the museum in the 1970s.
The Studebaker National Museum remained in the Freeman-Spicer Building from 1982 until 2005. In 2005 the museum was given a new home at the corner of Chapin and Thomas Streets. It adjoins the Center for History, giving tourists an opportunity to visit both museums with only one entrance fee. The two museums agreed from the start to share the parking lot, lobby, entrance and even the museum sign.
History within and without
Not only do tourists of the museum find amazing history within the museum, they also get to see how Studebaker buildings were built in the 1920s and 1930s. The new museum building itself was structured to reflect this design, giving its visitors an experience they will never forget. The outward appearance of the 55,000 square foot museum building makes walking into the museum feel just like one is walking back in time - to the very early days of the automobile.
Fund raising opportunities
Studebaker lovers can have a part in preserving the history of Studebakers. How? They can join the "Adopt-a-Car" program at the museum. There are 53 fabulous vehicles available each year for adoption. The sponsor(s) get their name displayed on the vehicle for as long as the sponsorship lasts. The adoption display is a plaque containing the name of the organization or family, the city, and the vehicle's name. Sponsors can choose which car or truck they would like to sponsor, availability being a factor. A Certificate of Adoption is issued along with a framed photo of the automobile. At the end of a year's sponsorship, the sponsor can choose to continue sponsoring the same vehicle, or select a different one.
Museum admission and memberships
The museum offers admission options several ways. There are individual admission fees for a one-time visit to either the Studebaker National Museum or the Center for History - or both. Pricing varies according to age, with senior citizens receiving a discount. There's also a special price for students ages 16 and up.
Membership admission options are also available on a yearly basis. There are annual membership packages available for only one museum or both. A combined membership for both museums is called a Campus Membership. Prices vary by age, individual, family and corporation.
Book an event or dinner
What better place to hold a dinner or special event for a Studebaker classic car club than the Studebaker National Museum? Even those who are not part of a club can hold a dinner or meeting at the museum for an interesting, peaceful setting. The museum has accommodations for both small meetings and large sit-down meals. Meeting guests can explore the museum afterward for entertainment.
Official Web site of the Studebaker National Museum
The museum's site has a wealth of information about museum admission, history and exhibits on display. Site visitors can find out news about the museum or Studebakers, enter contests and even plan a visit to the musuem. Each month, a trivia question about Studebakers is posted at the site, and prizes range from souvenir towels to t-shirts. Visit the Studebaker National Museum official Web site at www.studebakermuseum.org .
There's also a museum store where memorabilia products are sold such as Studebaker clocks, calendars, golf ball sets, thermometers, coasters and more. You can even make a donation to get your name on a commemorative brick. Books and videos are also available at the museum's store, including the Hemmings Book of Packard and Studebaker: Less Than They Promised.
A museum calendar of events is available online that shows the dates of swap meets, seminars, holiday celebrations and more. There's also a "links" section that includes all sorts of great sites about Studebakers and/or South Bend.
At the Studebaker National Museum, fans of these automobiles can explore and learn about the history of a great company and how it went from wagons to vehicles. Knowing the history behind the cars can make driving them much more pleasurable.