“You don’t need a mansion on the hill to be somebody. It’s not the house but the people inside it.” That’s what Stephen Lee Duncan of Aurora, Colo., told Swiss citizen and photojournalist Frimmel Smith in 1998.
According to a press release, Duncan was among many people Smith interviewed and photographed in conjunction with the American Institute of Architecture to create a traveling exhibit entitled “Wheel People,” which tells the story of Americans who choose to live in manufactured homes in deference to site built housing. The “Wheel People” is now on permanent display at the RV/MH Museum.
The “Wheel People” exhibit was created in 1998-99 by Smith with the cooperation of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum and many state manufactured housing associations. She identified people throughout the country to interview and photograph and traveled for over one year assembling their stories into this exhibition.
After displaying the exhibit at locations around the country from Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va., Biloxi, Miss., Chicago, and others, Smith donated the entire exhibit to the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind.
Darryl Searer, president of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, said, “The ‘Wheel People’ exhibit is an excellent addition to our manufactured housing collection. It not only traces the evolution of manufactured housing from trailers to mobile homes and finally to manufactured homes, it also shows the diversity of those who choose to live in homes on wheels.
“From Maine to California, occupants include people of all ages and incomes, from college students to senior citizens; America’s wealthy and her poor as well as white and blue collar workers, artists, entrepreneurs, farmers, and health care professionals.”
He added, “Visitors to the museum will be able to tour historic examples of homes on wheels, experience the ‘Wheel People’ exhibit and then step outside to visit a modern manufactured home currently being constructed east of the museum facility-we expect the home, loaned and erected by Fairmont Homes, to be completed and opened to the public in early November.
“The RV and manufactured housing industries sprang from the same root, but evolved into two separate industries – recreational travel and affordable housing. It’s impossible to tell the story of one industry without including the other.
Searer said that the “Wheel People” exhibit adds an important and interesting chapter to our goal of telling our story and interpreting our heritage. “Even those who have visited the museum in the past, I encourage them to come by again as our exhibits are always changing and evolving,” he said.