Auto Wars: Then & Now (2016-2017)


In 1900 cars were just starting to appear on Mount Desert Island, and just as quickly, people were arguing about whether cars were an important invention that could make life easier, or a noisy nuisance that would ruin the beauty of the Island. So began the Auto Wars, a battle lasting 16 years that pitted locals against summer residents, with the ultimate decision forever changing the nature of MDI.

One hundred years later, the Island is still struggling with the decision to allow cars. The large number of visitors that come each summer are important for businesses, non-profits, and arts organizations. However, the Island infrastructure is not equipped to handle them all, or the large vehicles common on today’s roads.

The historic story is presented through the personalities involved in the debate a century ago, as well as the humorous publicity stunts carried out by some of these characters. Touch screens and digital storytelling juxtapose the modern story, revealing the pleasures and trials of getting around on the Island today. Visitors become part of the story by sharing their own ideas about the past, present, and future of cars on MDI.

The exhibit is presented in a choose-your-own-adventure style. Visitors can follow either the pro- or anti-auto factions to explore the impact of community decisions on the landscape.


The Exhibit