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President's Welcome

Ellen M. Rosenthal
President & CEO

Greetings. Welcome to the Conner Prairie website and thank you for visiting my page, a place where I have the opportunity to give you the insider’s view of this organization. 

Conner Prairie has an amazing history. Eli Lilly’s purchase of the William Conner home in 1934 officially begins the story, but the essence of Conner Prairie manifested in 1935 when Lilly began staging “historic pageants,” issuing invitations to the public and saying that he aimed to make history exciting in ways books could not.

During Lilly’s lifetime 1836 Prairietown took shape. In the 1970s the “living history” approach was a startling innovation. Lilly was thrilled to be breaking new ground in historic presentation. He has been quoted as saying, “nothing is done that cannot be done better.” Today we at Conner Prairie continue to be inspired by Eli Lilly. We strive to make Indiana history as compelling and relevant as possible for a 21st-century audience.

You may have noticed that Conner Prairie has been changing. In 2009 we opened the 1859 Balloon Voyage, an immersive, hands-on exhibit based around the first air mail delivery via gas-filled balloon, an historic event in Indiana’s aviation past. In this exhibit, guests can recreate the historic balloon voyage by floating 350 feet up on our balloon. In its first year, more than 20,000 visitors from two weeks of age to 99 years participated!

In 2011, we opened Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana which tells the story of General John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry raid through Indiana during July 1863. This exhibit uses projected images and video along with theatrical sound and staging, hands-on experiences, and live action to bring the drama of Civil War Indiana to life. Guests take on the role of civilian volunteers from Indianapolis sent south to defend the state from the Rebel raiders.

We will continue to change in the next decade and beyond. Today, if you visited our offices, you would hear staff planning new exhibits saying, “but what will three year olds do in this space? What will older adults enjoy? Will teenager’s today think this is cool?” Certainly you can’t please everyone. There are many who believe that history is boring no matter how it is presented. But we try to make Conner Prairie engaging for the entire family, school children and adults.

We do this because we believe that history matters because it helps us understand our world, our family and our lives. And, we believe that encouraging curiosity and learning matters. In fact, we believe that places like Conner Prairie are essential to creating an environment of inquiry in America.

I invite you to visit or visit again and share your insights with me at Rosenthal@connerprairie.org. I answer every comment personally.  We aim to provide unique experiences that leave you wanting to learn more, and we only know if we have succeeded if you tell us. I look forward to hearing from you.

Ellen M. Rosenthal
President & CEO
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park