The Kruse museums near Auburn, Indiana feature a collection of military and automotive vehicles and memorabilia within one large building. Just off Interstate 69, it is easy to find and can be part of a wider Auburn museum tour or a spur of the moment stop while passing through the area. The museum collection falls into two main areas focusing on WWII military history and a collection of various vehicles from carriages to race cars. All areas of the museums are covered under one affordable admission fee.
The Automotive and Carriage Museum
One half of the building consists of the auto and carriage displays. The carriage collection has quite a variety from basic horse and buggy style to a fancy royal coach. I found it to be an interesting mix as most carriage collections focus strictly on historical types and lack the variety.
A big draw are the collection of TV and movie vehicles and custom hot rods by designer Carl Casper. Easily recognizable to kids like me who grew up in the 80s are the Firebird from Knight Rider, a General Lee from Dukes of Hazard, and the A-Team van. There is also a whole display dedicated to the classic Michael Keaton Batman movies including the Batmobile and Penguin’s rubber duck vehicle.
The Carl Casper hot rods will have an appeal to classic car fans with half a dozen examples of his work on display. A few other random classic cars round out the automotive room. In the back corner is the Northeast Indiana Racing Museum. It is odd to have a separate museum name for a single room with about a dozen race cars. Here you’ll find various sports cars from drag racing, Indy, and a Dale Earnhardt stock car.
Overall, the collection is both interesting and a bit random. A casual car fan, like myself, would spend about an hour looking through everything while somebody with a specific interest in one of the categories might spend a bit more time looking things over. One aspect I disliked was the large car show type placards propped up in front of the cars and Do Not Touch signs on everything, which is distracting while taking pictures.
WWII Victory Military Museum
The military side of the museum focuses mainly on WWII and has some unique pieces on display, such as General Patton’s command car. Like the car museum, the displays are a hodgepodge of items. Some display cabinets of uniforms and personal items, a large battlefield diorama (very well done), vehicles scattered about, and some large scale warship models.
The museum is currently undergoing some sort of construction, though I didn’t find any information about what they are doing. It looks to me like they are adding new display areas which will hopefully create a better flow to the design and present more of an historical narration to visitors.
Despite the randomness, it is an interesting collection and features displays highlighting local veterans. I also appreciate that they have some unique artifacts, though some of the vehicles didn’t appear to be quality restoration. I will have to keep an eye on the construction and plan another visit when it is complete. Overall, a very worthwhile stop for any military buff. Kids will also enjoy the displays, especially the large warship replicas.
There are two other sections to the museum. The first is filled with local baseball memorabilia that will appeal mostly to Indiana residents. There are quite a few items to look through. The second is the Monster Truck Hall of Fame. When I visited there were about a dozen trucks lined up in the back of the military museum. I’m not sure if this is the usual display area or if it was temporary due to construction. I don’t know much about monster trucks, so I can’t judge the examples they have in the collection.
The Kruse museums are an interesting, if random, collection of American vehicle history. For only $10 I saw a lot of unique items and enjoyed a 2 hour walk through. Though not on a scale or quality of a major military museum, it was impressive for a small collection and will appeal to military history enthusiasts. The car collection was a bit less impressive, though easily worth the admission price to see some cool classics. It’s also a good stop for families passing through the area to keep the kids busy for a while.
Museum General Information
Museum Hours: Open 9 to 5 daily. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.
Admission: $10 adults, $8 seniors, and $6 kids 6 to 12. Children 5 and under and WWII veterans get in free.
TIP: Ask for a Dekalb County museum passport and save a few dollars off admission on all your other museums visits. For a full list of Dekalb county museums click here.
Location: 5634 County Road 11-A, Auburn, IN 46706. The museum is visible from the highway.
Other great museums in the area
Early Ford V-8 Museum (1932 – 1953 Fords) – Currently adding an expansion, check ahead to see if open to public)