As a member of the marketing team, it’s part of my job to get the word out about how awesome Conner Prairie is. We know it’s great, but how can we get more people to visit and experience it, and even better, get them to become a member so they can experience it all year long?
When I first started, I was like some of you; I hadn’t been here since the 4th grade and the only thing I could remember about the trip was dipping a candle. I was shocked when I took my first trip around the various historic areas and saw everything that was going on. Within my first year here I had milked a goat, watched the birth of a baby lamb, thrown a tomahawk, had my picture taken with the Gingerbread Man, plowed a field and much more. I learned quickly to keep a pair of boots under my desk just in case I needed to take a quick trip outside!
We recently polled a group of our members to find out what they value most about their membership and Conner Prairie. I thought it would be the cost effectiveness of membership that really sold people—in this economy how can you beat free admission with each visit and free admission to select special events? But to my surprise the results showed while they do value the cost effectiveness, it’s the entertainment and educational value that stands out the most. This was really refreshing to hear because if there are two things Conner Prairie excels in it’s education and entertainment.
In the survey there were also some great suggestions and recommendations that I liked; things that would add even more to a membership, such as preview nights to special events for members only, a historic area dedicated to the Civil War, and guest passes that can be used a couple times a year. While we can’t promise all of the suggestions will be addressed, we can promise they are all taken into consideration. Some suggestions, including new historic areas, more special events and more affordable winter options have already been addressed with the addition of 1859 Balloon Voyage, 150th Anniversary of Air Mail special event this weekend and $5 admission during the winter months.
What else would you like to see as part of your Conner Prairie membership? If you aren’t a member, what would make you join?
The opinions, ideas and viewpoints expressed by the author of this post, on this web site, do not necessarily reflect the opinions, ideas, viewpoints or plans of Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.
Today, I’m going to share a few ideas I’ve had – or at least been a part of – in the last year or so. One of my favorite parts of my job is to come up with new, creative ideas. As part of the Experience Division at Conner Prairie, we want to design experiences that will have an emotional impact on guests. Whether it be an “aha!” moment, a “wow!” moment, or an “aw, that’s cute” moment, I want to be creative, clever, and effective. I personally look in a variety of places for inspiration – Google’s innovative use of technology, Pixar’s masterful storytelling, Disney’s brilliant Imagineering, and social performance-art groups like Improv Everywhere for out-of-the-box inspiration.
Here are a few ideas I’ve had for Conner Prairie.
Note: these are not necessarily plans that are moving forward, or even ideas that have been seriously considered by the powers-that-be. Just ideas and inspiration.
Water Gun Battle Reenactment
I borrowed this idea from a flash mob type group – this would be our premise: Instead of our staff doing the reenacting of history, the guests take the spotlight. On a hot summer day, guests would be divided into two camps. Each guest would be armed with water guns, water cannons, water balloons – all Nerf-ed out. A few “military commanders” would train the guests-turned-troops on 19th century infantry skills – marching, firing formations, etc. A few rousing “but they will never take our Freedom!” speeches would be given before the two camps, (maybe North v. South?) meet on the battle field. And then, water would fly.
Seriously, how much fun would it be to put guests, safely, in the center of the battle reenactment?
Colonial House: Conner Prairie
This idea was taken from the PBS show, “Colonial House,” an exercise in vicarious "experiential history" in which several people are put in the situation of surviving in the realistic setting of the original Plymouth Colony (circa 1628). Maybe we change the name to “Prairie House” to be more accurate – but imagine taking a random 15 folks from the Indy area to live in/around Prairietown and living by the standards of 1836, all-the-while being filmed, for a month.
Celebrating Jazz History
Conner Prairie recently became the first (and only) Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. It means we can collaborate on projects, have objects on loan, etc. etc.
In April, the Smithsonian leads a national celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM). They encourage all of their Affiliates to join in on the celebration. So how would Conner Prairie celebrate this? By stepping into the early 20th century.
Imagine that a portion of the CP Welcome Center is turned into a 1920s or 1940s jazz club – local Indianapolis jazz acts could provide the music, we put some of our interpreters into the appropriate garb. How about guests get in for half-price by dressing the part themselves? Maybe we offer swing dance lessons in the week or two leading up. Maybe we make it into an entire jazz festival, full of high school groups, Indy jazz standouts, and appearances from actors representing Indiana jazz greats Wes Montgomery, Hoagy Carmichael, JJ Johnson, or Cole Porter?
I would have loved to experience the golden age of Jazz. This could be our chance to recreate it. Full of flappers, swingin’ notes, and simple sophistication.
So, those are just a few of my thoughts.
Our mission is to “inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana’s past by providing engaging, individualized, and unique experiences.”
What crazy ideas do you have for Conner Prairie? Send me your ideas - Bouse@connerprairie.org