Staff Blog

Janet Smith - Conner Prairie VolunteerJanet Smith - Conner Prairie Volunteer
I had brought my young daughters to Conner Prairie when they were small to participate in the Prairie Tykes program. Then, several years ago, we moved in across the street from Conner Prairie. We bought a membership so we could come over anytime to visit the animals in the barn and walk around. It was amazing how every time we came, we learned something new. 

One day I heard that we could actually volunteer at Conner Prairie. My two daughters and I started out volunteering as a family. We did many crafts with young children and helped with the Glorious Fourth watermelon seed spitting contest. Eventually, my youngest daughter, Carrie, applied and became a youth volunteer and soon learned she loved working in the Lenape Indian Camp. She loved volunteering so much that last year she applied for a job and now works as a staff interpreter.

I love many things about volunteering at Conner Prairie. I would have to say my favorite volunteer post is driving the golf cart for Symphony on the Prairie. Taking the senior guests from the handicap lot to the gate gives me time to visit with these precious guests. They are coming to have a fun evening and I try to get them started with a pleasant, welcoming ride on the golf cart. I also enjoy selling Conner Prairie memberships. Having been a member many years, I know the value and can, with good conscience, easily talk to guests about the advantages of becoming a member. I love volunteering at Follow the North Star, Conner Prairie’s Underground Railroad program, and hearing the guests talk about their experiences after completion of their journey. Doing crafts with young children is fun and I have even kept one craft a little boy made and gave to me. 

Janet Smith, right

Volunteering at Conner Prairie
The spring Welcome Back Retreat for volunteers each year is so much fun. Jody and Arlene, the volunteer coordinators who are wonderful to work for, share with us what is new at Conner Prairie for the year. I can hardly wait each year to find out what new and exciting things will be happening before the information is revealed to the public.

My other daughter, Stacey, also wanted to include her thoughts:
Upon turning 18, I was free to volunteer on my own and have found working in the store to be fun and delightful. I really like working with Barb, Becky and Elaine there. It is fun waiting on the guests, but I also enjoy pricing and setting up displays. I even get a discount in the store for working there. Another thing I enjoy is Follow the North Star and doing chair rental at Symphony on the Prairie. 

We all look forward to another season volunteering and working at Conner Prairie in 2014.

*Would you like to volunteer at Conner Prairie? Learn more here:

Posted: 4/10/2014 4:18:32 PM by Conner Prairie | with 0 comments

Katie ArnoldKatie Arnold - Staff Interpreter
For the past few weeks the tone amidst the Conner Prairie staff has changed dramatically. There seems to be a pervasive buzz in the air – one of excitement, determination and honestly, a little stress. What folks in the public probably don’t know is that there are many changes coming to Conner Prairie this season which means a lot has to be done before opening day. Create.Connect is getting a makeover, Civil War Journey and Lenape Indian Camp are introducing new characters, there are new interpreters, and baby animals are being born!!! Conner Prairie has been buzzing with activity!!

Over these past couple of weeks the interpreters have been engaged in a lot of activities in order to prepare ourselves, and the buildings, for opening day. First we, the interpreters and maintenance staff, have been cleaning and organizing all of the buildings in the historic park. This means that we have swept, dusted, mopped, and replenished any supplies like firewood in each of the historical buildings. It is an important and big job because really who wants to visit a house that is covered in dust and cobwebs? No one. That’s gross.
Candle Dipping
So rest assured, when you visit the park, it will sparkle. Second, we have been attending a multitude of educational trainings to aid us in interpretation with guests. There have been a plethora of topics covered that have ranged from learning about consumerism in 1836 to the history of William Conner. We have also attended skills trainings that teach us how to do things like weave baskets or tell compelling stories. The list of trainings is vast to be sure. I think the sheer number of training sessions that have been offered over the past month reveals a truth about our staff that is often overlooked, and that is that we ourselves enjoy learning and are thirsty for knowledge. We want to be educated and taught new skills. Not only does it make us better interpreters for guests, but it helps to better our own understanding of the past.

That being said, in addition to working Conner Prairie’s Hearthside Suppers program and preparing the grounds, I have been gearing up for the opening of our outdoor season by helping to create new female characters for Lenape Indian Camp. The development of these new characters started with my research of women’s roles in Indiana when it became a state. From there I was able to create what we call “composite characters” or characters whose stories are based off the true lives of multiple people. I have been able to create several female characters, and I know that we are all now beyond excited that they will be out there.

Lenape FunOpening day for the 2014 season is upon us, and I cannot express to you just how excited we all are to see all of our visitors. Everyone at Conner Prairie has worked very hard in the off season to get the grounds and ourselves ready for the season. For me, I can’t wait to see people charging the field in Civil War Journey, join us in preparing a meal at the Golden Eagle Inn, weave a basket or throw a tomahawk in Lenape Indian Camp, or even just stand in awe of the gorgeous view in front of the Conner House. This season promises to be filled with all of the wonderful things that Conner Prairie is known for and some new exciting changes. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to the prairie!

March/April Hours:
Opening Week/Spring Break: March 27 to April 13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, closed Mondays
Remainder of April: April 14 to April 30, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Easter Sund
Posted: 3/27/2014 9:38:20 AM by Conner Prairie | with 0 comments

Kelsey Van Voorst - Staff Interpreter
Although more men than women work in the science field, women have made some amazing scientific and technological discoveries, inventions and advancements over the years. And, they continue to do so every day.

Those include the invention of the dishwasher, outdoor fire escape and windshield wipers; discoveries in the radiation, solar heat and HIV fields; and advancements in so much that improve the quality of our everyday lives.

Passport to Hi-Tech
Come to “Passport to Hi-Tech” to ignite scientific curiosity in your own young girls and to encourage them to pursue hobbies, education and careers in the technology, chemistry, biology, engineering and manufacturing fields. “Passport to Hi-Tech” will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 8. It is aimed at girls ages 7-12, but everyone is invited!

During your visit, you will learn while having fun in a plethora of hands-on activities and experiments. You will meet and hear from several local female leaders in the science and technology industries who are making a difference. And maybe they will recruit your kids to work with them some day!

Additionally, you can meet three women who made quite an impact in our scientific history – a few hundred years ago!

Come meet Marie Curie (1867-1934), the first woman to win the Nobel Prize! This physicist and chemist worked with radiation in the 19th century. Fun fact: Her notebooks are still so radioactive that they cannot be handled!

Come meet Mary Anning (1799-1847,) a fossil collector, dealer and paleontologist in the 1830s! Many of this fossil hunter's discoveries are still on display at the British Museum. Although was not a formally educated woman, scientists came from all over the world to dig with her.

Come meet Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), the first woman to be paid for her work as a scientist! Among her achievements is her discovery of eight comets in the 1700s.

Kelsey Van Voorst, shown in the videos, will play all three characters during “Passport to Hi-Tech.” The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 8. IT is included in general admission tickets: $7 for ages 2 and older, free for members and youth younger than 2.
Posted: 3/7/2014 8:12:28 AM by Michele Stratton | with 0 comments

FDR on Presidents DayEdward Grogan - Senior Interpreter/FDR on Presidents Day
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (pictured far left) visited Conner Prairie on Presidents Day to speak about his views on rural electrification in the early 20th century. Please read this letter he has written to the American people. Then, visit Conner Prairie’s Create.Connect area to help power new electrical appliances in a 1930s Boone County farmhouse and learn about the impact electricity made.

“My fellow Americans, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, wish to talk to you on the subject of rural electrification. We are living in a time when there are great divisions among our people. In these difficult and uncertain times, we see a growing gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, and the urban and rural families. Some people have called me ‘a traitor to my class.’ I was born to wealth and privilege, but when you elected me to be your president, you elected me to serve ALL of the people, not just the wealthy few.

One of the gaps I see as I look upon our society is that those who live in towns and cities have access to the benefits of electric power, and those people on our farms and ranches do not. At this time, 90 percent of our urban population has electricity, but nine out of 10 farms do not. I am told that private companies are not willing to bear the cost of extending electricity to rural areas because it will be too costly to extend power lines into the countryside, and besides, the farmers are too poor to pay for electric power.

Presidents Day with FDRI, for one, am not willing to write off the people of our farms and ranches, the sturdy hard-working people who produce our food and our fiber. I believe the blessings of electric power should be available to our rural population. With electric power, our farmers will be able to light their homes and outbuildings, and pump water for their home and livestock. Electricity will bring efficiency to our dairy farms where cows can be milked by machine rather than by hand. Electricity will also help farm families refrigerate their food and keep their homes cool in the heat of the summer. Farmwives will be able to do their housework quicker and more efficiently with electrical home appliances. Electricity will help farm families increase productivity and their incomes and have radios, thus decreasing the isolation from the rest of the world.

With the help and support of Representative John Rankin and Senator George William Norris, I am issuing Executive Order 7037. This will provide federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve rural areas of the United States. We will establish member-owned cooperatives that will purchase power on a wholesale basis and distribute it using their own networks of transmissions lines. The construction of new power stations and new power lines will create jobs and help end the crippling unemployment that has far too long gripped our nation.

In years to come, I hope to be remembered as the president who helped bring electricity to our rural citizens.”

Written by Edward Grogan, a senior interpreter who played FDR on Presidents Day at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.
Posted: 2/24/2014 4:37:07 PM by Michele Stratton | with 0 comments

Barrie L. Borger - Conner Prairie Volunteer
Several years ago while visiting from Pennsylvania, my wife and I stopped in at Conner Prairie to see what my sister-in-law was raving about. She knew that I was a history buff and liked to see how things are done.

We were very impressed and really enjoyed our visit. As we were leaving, we were approached to see if we would like to buy a membership. We explained that we were from out of state, but would consider it if we ever moved closer.

In May of 2010 we retired and relocated to the Fishers area. The day before we closed on our home, we kept our promise and became members of Conner Prairie.

As members, we often received mailing about Conner Prairie news. One of those times we saw an article about the “1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana” exhibit opening in 2011, and since I have a real interest in that part of American history, I contacted Conner Prairie to see if I could get involved in that launch.

I was accepted as a volunteer and before I knew it, I was deeply involved in the launch of Civil War Journey and was attending meetings and giving input.

When the Civil War Journey opened, I was scheduled on Saturdays, greeting guests as they entered the new and exciting area. I would explain what they were about to encounter, share some historical anecdotes and give directions as needed.

Eventually, I changed positions and became the grounds greeter on Saturdays. My duties include welcoming guests, giving directions as needed and explaining areas that may be of interest. I try to let people know of any special events going on during the day, to help them make the most of their visit. I make sure that they have the map with the events listed. I love the reaction I get from the kids when I mention the baby animals in the Animal Encounters Barn.

I feel valued as a volunteer at Conner Prairie. The paid staff is grateful for the assistance I provide and the volunteer office staff is great. So, why don’t you join us?

** Interested in becoming a volunteer and proudly wearing a red shirt? Join Conner Prairie for a Volunteer Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 22 in the Welcome Center. The fair is free and does not require registration. Must be 18+ to attend. **

Learn more about volunteering:

Learn more about the Volunteer Fair:

Posted: 2/20/2014 11:31:45 AM by Michele Stratton | with 0 comments

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A Letter from a President
Volunteering at Conner Prairie