Former banking executive brings customer service skills to guest services

Ron Wencel relocated to Noblesville, Ind., after he retired as vice president of BMO Harris Bank. He frequently visited Conner Prairie with wife Debbie, their daughter and her children before taking a guest services position at Conner Prairie.

By Hannah Kiefer
Before Ron Wencel took a job at the ticket desk at Conner Prairie, he had a career in banking. He was vice president of Canadian-based BMO Harris Bank, working with a team that oversaw quality control.

Ron started as a teller straight out of high school and began climbing the corporate ladder. During this time, he attended a three-year program to get a certificate in banking. Slowly but surely, he worked his way up to vice president. Fast-forward 45 years, three children and seven grandchildren, Ron and wife Debbie decided to put their house in Plainfield, Ill., on the market and contemplate Ron’s retirement.

Little did they know, though, their house would sell in just three weeks. “I hadn’t planned to retire that quickly,” he laughed. So in 2014, Ron retired from BMO Harris – and that’s when his journey to Conner Prairie began. Continue reading

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

Kroger new title sponsor of Symphony on the Prairie at Conner Prairie

Conner Prairie President and CEO Norman Burns speaks at a news conference Tuesday announcing that Kroger is the new title sponsor of Symphony on the Prairie at Conner Prairie.

Staff Report
Symphony on the Prairie starts its 2017 series with a new title sponsor.

Conner Prairie President and CEO Norman Burns joined executives with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Tuesday to announce that Kroger will sponsor Symphony on the Prairie for the next four years.

This season will be the 36th season of the popular concert series held at Conner Prairie, which typically draws nearly 120,000 each season. This year’s concert series begins June 16. Continue reading

Exhibits director selected for international executive education residency

Staff Report
Brian Mancuso has been with Conner Prairie since 2012, leading efforts to conceptualize and create new exhibits and reinvigorate others.

As director of exhibits, he has led a team of five and outside vendors to make Create.Connect, Discovery Station and Craft Corner, Treetop Outpost and most recently the reimagined William Conner House.

Next month, he’ll head to California as one of 62 others selected for residency in an international executive education program for museum leaders.

Mancuso’s residency is through the Getty Leadership Institute at California’s Claremont Graduate University. He will be part of an international group hand-picked by the institute that includes participants from the U.S. and eight other countries. He’ll take part in a program designed for mid-level managers tapped as the next generation of museum leaders.

Before joining Conner Prairie, Mancuso was director of exhibits at the Health Museum in Houston, Texas. Originally from Tampa, Fla., he earned a bachelor’s degree in museum studies and history from Baylor University and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Nebraska.

Supported by the Getty Foundation, the Getty Leadership Institute focuses on fostering learning, thought leadership and networking for museum leaders. The institute has 1,600 alumni from 40 countries.

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