FISHERS, Ind. (March 20, 2012) – In June, Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, Indiana’s only Smithsonian Affiliate, will unveil the newly revitalized 1836 Prairietown. The 19th century living pioneer village will offer guests the opportunity to experience history in a whole new way through new immersive programming, new structures, a new potter’s shop and new hands-on activities.
Originally opened in 1974, 1836 Prairietown is a fictional yet historically accurate pioneer village set in the 1830s. Its community of residents struggle to survive during a time when many small towns disappeared. 1836 Prairietown is nationally known for catapulting guests into history through interaction with costumed staff, who speak as if in the time period, coupled with interactive experiences in an authentic setting. While Conner Prairie will keep elements for which 1836 Prairietown is best known, the town will be transformed to offer new opportunities to discover firsthand what it was like to live, work and play in Indiana’s past.
“The1836 Prairietown living history experience is the cornerstone on which Conner Prairie was founded,” said Ellen M. Rosenthal, president and CEO. “It was a revolutionary approach to the presentation of history when it opened 38 years ago – the first time in America visitors felt they could meet people of the past. We are taking the next step in the evolution of engaging visitors this year by enriching opportunities for hands-on and role-playing experiences.”
In 1830s Indiana small towns often didn’t survive. The residents of 1836 Prairietown are coming together as a community to attract new neighbors, landowners and skilled tradesmen to ensure the future of their town. Visitors will become potential residents looking to secure a home, find a job and earn wages to spend at the town store, all while overcoming hardships and obstacles pioneers faced in the 19th century. At the end of their journey, guests will affect the fate of 1836 Prairietown by deciding if they want to take up residency or continue moving west.
New Experiences and New Look
1836 Prairietown will be transformed through new color schemes, structures and remodeled historic buildings. Upon arrival, visitors will walk through a new entry sequence designed to orient them to what life was like in 1836, a time when Andrew Jackson was president and there were no automobiles, microwaves or zippers. Families will then be met by a staff member at the new Outfitter’s Station. This modern-day host will not only provide opportunities to participate in new programming but also help guests make the most of their 1836 Prairietown adventure.
The Barker Brothers’ Pottery Shop is the newest building in 1836 Prairietown. Construction on the shop began in April 2011. Visitors can dive into the history of pottery by watching a master craftsman at work and then try their hand at this historic trade on model spinning wheels. At select times and for an additional fee, guests of all ages can make a masterpiece of their own to take home.
In the newly remodeled town store, guests will now be able to purchase goods and souvenirs to take home with “money” earned by pitching in and lending a hand to the townsfolk. Guests can earn coins by completing odd jobs in town such as feeding live animals, helping with farm chores and assisting various tradesmen. The store not only offers new programming but will also have a new look both inside and out.
Several other existing historic buildings will be transformed to provide more hands-on, self-directed activities, such as a new play kitchen in the Campbell home, horseshoe activity table in the blacksmith’s shop, chalk stenciling in the Curtis home, remodeled dress-up station in the McClure house, a life-size covered wagon with supplies and furniture to move in and out of the Cabin for Sale and much more.
New Opportunities for Engagement
Whether they enjoy being immersed in the action, joining in on activities or just observing, guests can participate in new opportunities for engagement at all levels. New Adventure Guidebooks, Achievement Cards and Seek-and-Find Books will provide a unique experience with each visit to 1836 Prairietown.
- Adventure Guidebooks: Each guidebook contains a mission prompting families and children to find everything from supplies and jobs to friends in town. Visitors will be faced with obstacles and crises along their journey as well. After completing an adventure, guests will be asked to decide if they plan to settle in town or continue moving west.
- Achievement Cards: Achievement Cards offer the opportunity to become an official resident of 1836 Prairietown by completing specific tasks. Visitors can take on various roles such as an artist, gardener, cook or criminal. After accomplishing the tasks, guests will earn their title and a collectible achievement sticker. Guests can take on different roles and collect new stickers during each visit.
- Seek-and-Find Books: Specifically designed to engage children ages 5 and younger, Seek-and-Find Books are designed to promote critical thinking by providing a fun, educational and interactive romp through town. Children will be asked to locate historic artifacts, identify colors, count animals and discover how tools worked in the 19th century.
Conner Prairie is a recognized leader in the museum field for engaging visitors in active, intergenerational and life-long learning. 1836 Prairietown has changed over time, first in the year 2000 from telling and showing to involving and engaging visitors. Today’s changes are again putting Conner Prairie at the forefront by offering a fully immersive historical experience through various role-playing opportunities that put you at the center of the action. In turn, these changes continue to promote learning by prompting guests to make personal connections to history and comparisons between life today and life in the 19th century. Experiences in 1836 Prairietown also meet various Indiana academic standards across several grade levels.
Grand Re-opening Weekend
A grand re-opening weekend celebration will be held on June 9 and 10 to unveil all the new experiences. Special activities will include a land auction, where guests can bid on and “purchase” their own piece of Prairietown. The winning bidder will take away a deed to their new land. A party will also be held throughout the town that includes music, dancing, games and more. Puppet shows, participatory plays, take-home crafts and even a few surprises are in store for visitors during the grand re-opening weekend celebration.
For high-resolution, downloadable images of 1836 Prairietown, click here. For more information, visit connerprairie.org, follow us on Twitter @ConnerPrairie or like us on Facebook.
Media Contact: Lynelle Mellady (317) 214-4732 (office), (765) 977-3019 (cell), email@example.com.
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, created by Eli Lilly in 1934, is Indiana’s only Smithsonian Affiliate and a nonprofit organization that relies on sponsorships, grants and philanthropic gifts for sustainability and future growth. Families of today engage, explore and discover what it was like to live and play in Indiana’s past. Explore five themed historic areas on 200 beautiful, wooded acres including the newest exhibits, 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana and 1859 Balloon Voyage that takes guests 350 feet above the prairie in a tethered helium balloon. Every visit is a unique adventure that provides an authentic look into the history that shapes us today. Visit connerprairie.org or call 317.776.6006 or 800.966.1836 for admission dates, hours, ticket prices and opportunities to donate. Connect with Conner Prairie on Facebook at facebook.com/connerprairie, Flickr at flickr.com/people/connerprairie, YouTube at youtube.com/user/ConnerPrairie and Twitter at twitter.com/connerprairie.