Experience area close-up: 1836 Prairietown

Prairietown has always been set in 1836. Since the 1970s, it has had the characters that Conner Prairie visitors know and love today.

Staff Report
Next in our series examining our outdoor experience areas, we’re taking a look at one of our older areas: 1836 Prairietown.

The Prairietown area, originally called the Village, began as just a few buildings from around the state salvaged by Eli Lilly, who was particularly interested in the trade shops, such as the blacksmith and pottery shops. In 1964, Lilly gave Conner Prairie to Earlham College and some tours began, led by farm wives and volunteers. During that year, the number of visitors was only around 2,500, an amount the museum welcomes on a single busy summer day today.

Ten years later, in 1974, the Village opened to the public, with first-person interpretation adopted by the staff. By the mid-1970s, most of the buildings that are in Prairietown today had been placed there, although some have been moved around in the decades between 1970 and today. Continue reading

Experience area close-up: 1863 Civil War Journey

In 2011, 1863 Civil War Journey opened at Conner Prairie.

Staff Report
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be diving deeper into another experience area: 1863 Civil War Journey.

Civil War Journey opened in 2011 due in large part to the many requests received from school groups to have some sort of Civil War experience for students to go through. That year also happened to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Unlike other Conner Prairie experience areas, when visitors step into Civil War Journey they’re traveling back to a specific day – July 13, 1863, the day after Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan raided the Indiana town of Dupont. Continue reading

Interpreter began Prairietown potter’s role 38 years ago


Interpreter Larry Gilliam demonstrates his pottery skills to a school group inside the potter’s shop in Prairietown.

By Hannah Kiefer
If visitors have ever purchased a piece of the beautiful pottery sold in the Conner Prairie Store, there’s a good chance it was made by Larry Gilliam – although they may know him better as Mr. Barker, owner of the pottery shop in 1836 Prairetown.

“I’ve touched probably all the pottery that we have here,” he said. He added that although he oversees all of the pottery production, he definitely couldn’t do it without help from fellow interpreters Sarah Richcreek and Jessica Madsen, who also work on pottery. Continue reading

Experience area close-up: Treetop Outpost


Treetop Outpost opened in July 2016 and has been a popular destination for Conner Prairie visitors. Throughout May, some new additions are being added to the experience.

Staff Report
This summer, we at Conner Prairie are going to dive deeper into all of our outdoor experience areas with social media posts about all the things you can see and do at Conner Prairie.

For the next two weeks, we’ll focus in on our newest experience area, Treetop Outpost, which will be seeing some exciting changes this month. Continue reading

A master of restoration: Creativity favorite part of Keith Thomas’ job


Keith Thomas has worn many hats during his 28 years at Conner Prairie. Currently, he works as historic maintenance technician, taking care of exhibits throughout the museum.

By Hannah Kiefer
When people look around Conner Prairie, there are few things that exhibit and historic maintenance technician Keith Thomas hasn’t worked on.

For 28 years, he has worked in a number of roles, as a carpenter in Prairietown, a naturalist, a camp director and now, as the person who makes sure all exhibits stay in good condition.

Thomas helped build most of the elements of Discovery Station – including a Treetop Outpost-inspired dollhouse – and he said the only things he really hasn’t worked on are the technological elements in Civil War Journey. Continue reading