Ellen M. Rosenthal, President and CEO
Ellen M. Rosenthal assumed the top executive role at Conner Prairie in 2003 at a pivotal time in its history. Since, she has engineered the total transformation of what had been a traditional living history museum into today’s immersive and interactive history park.
Under her leadership, Conner Prairie’s operational budget has grown to a record $11 million. Nearly 400 full- and part-time employees and more than 500 volunteers keep Conner Prairie operational 12 months of the year.
Rosenthal played an integral role in Conner Prairie becoming a Smithsonian affiliate, the only museum in Indiana to hold such a distinction. She also was the driving force leading to Conner Prairie receiving an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal, the nation’s highest museum honor.
She led the way in securing a $2.3 million National Science Foundation grant in 2012 that empowers Conner Prairie to lead four American institutions in the integration of informal science experiments at historical sites and museums across the country. Under Rosenthal, Conner Prairie was named one of six magnetic museums in the U.S., defined in part as “high-performance organizations that deliver tangible cultural and civic value and achieve superior business results.”
Rosenthal’s unique approach to focusing on experiential learning and guest immersion has resulted in more than a 240 percent increase in annual attendance. More than 340,000 guests visit Conner Prairie’s historic grounds and indoor experiences annually.
She piloted conversation-based learning studies at Conner Prairie that morphed into an innovative approach to visitor experiences, captured in a training video titled “Opening Doors to Great Guest Experiences.” The video has been purchased and implemented by 1,200 museums worldwide and has touched the lives of more than 26 million museum visitors worldwide.
Rosenthal has received a Leading Light award honoring her achievements in science, education and technology from Indiana-based Women and Hi Tech; an Excellence in Innovation award from the Indiana Innovation Awards; a Commitment to Creativity Trailblazers award from University High School and a Torchbearer award from the state of Indiana. The Indianapolis Business Journal named her one of the state’s Most Influential Women and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels named Rosenthal a Distinguished Hoosier.
Rosenthal earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Barnard College at Columbia University in New York City; a master’s degree in American culture from the prestigious Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library at University of Delaware in Wilmington, Del.; and a master’s degree in public management with highest honors from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa.