Bicentennial frenzy at Conner Prairie: Exhibits, events and a torch stop

Work continues this month on Treetop Outpost at Conner Prairie as all four floors of the structure are now framed. The new outdoor nature experience will open July 1.

Staff Report
You may have heard the buzz around everything that Conner Prairie has planned to celebrate Indiana’s bicentennial – or maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, here’s the lowdown on the museum’s four big bicentennial-related projects this season:

legacy_logoNow through December: Courthouses of Indiana
Throughout 2016, Conner Prairie will display an art collection of paintings and drawings of Indiana courthouses created by professional and amateur artists commissioned by the Indiana State Bar Association. The project began in 2007 under former association President Douglas Church, who is a board member emeritus for Conner Prairie. Conner Prairie was chosen to house the exhibit because of Church’s ties to the museum and because the Conner House used to serve as the county seat and county courthouse. The exhibit opened to the public on Jan. 13 and will showcase the 40 drawings and paintings of county courthouses that the association has secured so far through the end of the year. The current artwork will remain up until May 9, when the second group will be hung. On Sept. 12, the second group will come down and the final group will take its place. Each group contains about 14 pieces of art. The collection is designated an official Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project. Continue reading

One of interpreter’s favorite parts of job is to pose with visitors for photos

Interpreter Jay Hemphill (left) interacts with a group of Conner Prairie youth volunteers during their training earlier this month.

By Hannah Kiefer
For interpreter Jay Hemphill, landing a job at Conner Prairie was largely a practice in persistence. “I visited, fell in love with it and it was really hard to get a job here,” he said, laughing. “It took me a good three attempts to get selected.”

At the time of his auditions, Hemphill was traveling between Indianapolis and a theater in Kentucky where he worked. But he felt he needed a job that gave him something more. “There are jobs that are work and there are jobs that benefit people,” he said. “I was looking for something I could do that was going to be a benefit.”

Hemphill kept trying for a position at Conner Prairie and in 2013 his hard work paid off. He landed the job and he said it’s been wonderful ever since. He loves having a job where he can combine theater with education and history — three of his passions. He has carried that same persistence and enthusiasm into his work as an interpreter, said Ellen Paulin, who oversees all first-person interpreters. “Some people are natural-born interpreters and Jay is one of those people,” Paulin said. “He is also always looking for new ways to engage our visitors.” Continue reading

Promise Road fourth-graders get historical lesson on electricity

Conner Prairie Interpreter Taylor Coonce sits with fourth-grade students at Promise Road Elementary in Noblesville as they demonstrate how to create an electrical circuit. 

Staff Report

Last week, 121 fourth-graders at Promise Road Elementary went “back in time” to get a lesson on electricity.

Manager of Science Interpretation Jason Adams, Interpreter Taylor Coonce, and Education Director Nancy Stark visited the school to try a new program developed by Conner Prairie staff and the teachers at Promise Road.

As a premise for the day’s activities, the fourth graders pretended to be members of a farm cooperative during the 1930s, and they had to decide whether or not to electrify their farms with help from the interpreters’ characters, Kurt Lancaster and Vera Zimmerman, who are mainstays in Conner Prairie’s Create.Connect exhibit. The characters were both considering bringing electricity to their own farms, and while Vera was all for it, Kurt wasn’t convinced. Therefore, they needed some help from the students to decide. Continue reading

Passport to Hi-Tech on March 5 aims to get girls interested in STEM

More than 1,200 girls ages 7-12 are expected to explore STEM interests at Passport to Hi-Tech on March 5. 

Staff Report 

Jocelyn Dunn is well on her way to becoming an astronaut, a dream she’s had since she was a young girl.

At age 28, the Purdue University industrial engineering doctoral student has accomplished some impressive feats, earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, a master’s degree in biomedical engineering and living eight months in a simulated Martian habitat.

In 2014, Dunn and a team of five other researchers lived in abandoned quarry about 8,000 feet above sea level in a domed structure on a volcano slope on the Big Island of Hawaii. The team was part of a NASA-funded study of human factors that affect team performance during long-term space travel, like a mission to Mars.

“We as a team went out and explored the area in full space suits as if we were the first Mars explorers,” Dunn said. “We would get tasks assigned to us from our Mission Control and explore the terrain.”

Nearly 1,200 girls with aspirations mirroring Dunn’s when she was young can talk with female science and technology leaders and participate in hands-on, interactive activities March 5 at the third annual Passport to Hi-Tech, a partnership between Conner Prairie and Women & Hi Tech. Continue reading

Free admission to Conner Prairie for visitors of all ages on Feb. 15

Around 1,500 visitors are expected to come to Conner Prairie on Feb. 15, which is President’s Day — a free admission day.

Staff Report

We’re gearing up for one our most popular free admission days of the year. President’s Day is Feb. 15 and we have a full day of presidential antics and activities planned for your visit to Conner Prairie.

We’ll be open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and we expect somewhere around 1,500 visitors who can meet several famous U.S. presidents, chat with some favorite first ladies, participate in sing-alongs, play games, shock George Washington with a surprise birthday party and much more. And we’re encouraging younger visitors to come dressed as their favorite president or first lady for the day. Continue reading