New Survey: Nine in 10 Americans Say Our Past Should Inform Our Future; Curiosity in History Expands Across Generations with Millennials Leading the Way

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Smithsonian Affiliate – Conner Prairie – Reveals Survey Findings in Advance of International Museum Day

FISHERS, Ind. (May 15, 2019) – Ninety-six percent of Americans believe it is important to look at our history to inform our future, according to a new national survey commissioned by the Smithsonian Affiliate – Conner Prairie. The results – out just prior to International Museum Day (May 18) – also reveal that 42 percent of Americans now have a higher level of curiosity in history as compared to this time last year.

In addition, 87 percent of survey respondents agree that increasing interest in genealogy – tracing family history – shows that more people long to connect with their past to better understand their own personal journey, values and who they are.

“At a time when our nation feels increasingly isolated and divided, it’s encouraging to see an overwhelming majority of Americans looking to our past to inform our shared future,” said Norman Burns, president and CEO of Conner Prairie. “History museums have a key role to play here because we are as relevant to the future as we are to the past. We must feed the increasing appetite Americans have for understanding history, finding a sense of place and realizing a brighter future.”

Other key survey findings include:
• Ninety-one percent of Americans agreed: It is important that people learn about history to build a strong foundation for the future.
• Eighty-two percent of Americans think it is important that history museums step up to create a sense of place and community for civil discourse and greater understanding.
• Eighty-four percent of Americans think it is important that history museums protect the natural environment and engage guests in river and land conservation.

The generational breakouts of respondents who said they have a higher level of curiosity in history as compared to this time last year include: Gen Z (47 percent); Millennials (55 percent); Gen X (42 percent); Baby Boomers (28 percent) and the Silent Generation (26 percent).

“History matters across generations because it connects people to something larger than themselves,” said John Dichtl, president and CEO, American Association for State and Local History. “Institutions like Conner Prairie are redefining the museum experience, helping people engage with the past to better understand the world around them and developing solutions for the future.”

Additionally, 79 percent of Americans think it is important that museums demonstrate a sustained commitment for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. Ninety-two percent of Americans think it is important that museums are fully accessible to all guests. Conner Prairie, an accredited museum by the American Alliance of Museums, formally committed to driving intentional programming that delivers on its Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (DEAI) promise to be a place where the doors are always open to a diversity of voices and limitless experiences.

“In our “Facing Change” report, we encouraged museum leaders around the country to consider the principles of diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion as essential, sustainable values for museums to pursue as bedrocks of ethical and morally courageous museum work,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums. “These survey findings confirm how critically important these principles are to museum guests and signal how the field can remain relevant to an ever-diversifying US population.”

Conner Prairie recently announced that its 2018 attendance was the second-highest in its 85-year history at 402,261.

Conner Prairie commissioned the survey of just over 1,000 American adults to gauge public opinion on the role of history and museums as methods of education, community and entertainment. The margin of error fell within +/- 3 percentage points with a confidence interval of 95 percent. Atomik Research, an independent creative market research agency, conducted the fieldwork from April 15-16, 2019.

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Spanning more than 1,000 wooded acres in Central Indiana, Conner Prairie welcomes more than 400,000 visitors of all ages annually. As Indiana’s first Smithsonian Institute affiliate, Conner Prairie offers various outdoor, historically-themed encounters and indoor experiential learning spaces that combine history and art with science, technology, engineering and math to offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today. Conner Prairie is a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization – accredited by the American Alliance of Museums – that relies on grants and philanthropic donations from individuals, corporations and foundations for sustainability and growth. Visit or call (800) 966-1836 for admission dates, hours, ticket prices and opportunities to donate and volunteer.

Christine DeJoy
Director of Public Affairs
Conner Prairie
(317) 776-6000