Conner Prairie is a living history museum in Fishers, Indiana, USA, that preserves the historic William Conner home and recreates part of life in Indiana in the 19th century on the White River.
History and Development
Conner Prairie was begun when pharmaceutical executive Eli Lilly
donated the Conner home and surrounding farm to the Quaker liberal arts school, Earlham College
in the early 1960s. Earlham ran Conner Prairie as a wholly-owned subsidiary and it grew from a local tourist attraction and educational outreach for the College into the highly regarded institution it is today. As Conner Prairie gained increasing strength and independence, tension developed with Earlham. After a lengthy and contentious legal struggle with Earlham, the museum became completely independent as a result of a plan brokered by Indiana's attorney general
. Conner Prairie now has its own board of directors
and maintains its own finances and endowment
Layout and concept
The museum grounds are divided into several sections, where different eras in history are recreated to create a kind of living timeline. Staff in period costumes demonstrate the way early inhabitants in the area lived. They explain their lifestyles in character while performing chores such as cooking, chopping wood, making pottery, and tending to animals. Patrons are often invited to join in the activities.
The museum's main building, called the Museum Center, contains the entrance lobby, ticket sales counter, restaurant, banquet hall, and gift shop. The gift shop sells pottery made by the museum's costumed staff as well as more conventional souvenirs.
Conner Prairie serves as the summer home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The Friday/Saturday Symphony on the Prairie concert series, sponsored by Marsh Supermarkets, attracts some 90,000+ concert goers each year, a substantial percentage of Conner Prairie's annual visitor count.
Conner Prairie features several permanent attractions and numerous semi-regular events, including "Mystery on the Prairie" murder mystery evenings, the Headless Horseman ride in the autumn, candlelight tours, and country fair. It also hosts Civil War re-enactments, the annual Spirit of the Prairie Awards, and Christmas holiday events and dinners.
The genuine Conner brick house
are preserved as a museum. Visitors can hear about how early Hoosiers
cooked, spun and dyed thread and yarn, and cared for their animals and crops.
1886 Liberty Corner
Liberty Corner recreates a rural community in 1886, with a schoolhouse, Quaker
meeting house, authentic covered bridge
, and farm (Victorian home and three-bay bank barn). Visitors might even catch a vintage base ball
Prairietown recreates a pioneer community in 1836, with a blacksmith
shop, inn, doctor
's office, schoolhouse, and several residences. Visitors arriving early in the day might help with morning chores.
Lenape Camp recreates bark
and cattail mat wigwams
and a fur trade
camp with a log cabin
. Visitors can learn how the Lenape (Delaware Indians
) lived in Indiana and hunted and trapped animals to trade with white fur traders.
Spirit of the Prairie Awards
The Spirit of the Prairie Awards began in 1998. The event honors individuals who demonstrate "excellence in achievement, courage, innovation and vision," all of which are characteristics shown by those establishing the United States
. The awards are Conner Prairie Museum's highest honors.