IBJNews

Conner Prairie to open interactive Civil War exhibit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Conner Prairie Interactive History Park will open a Civil War exhibit in June, hoping for a similar bump in membership and ticket sales as it got from its Balloon Voyage rides the past two summers.

The $4.3 million exhibit, dubbed 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana, will take visitors through the experience of volunteering to fight Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his 2,400 Rebel raiders who crossed into Indiana in July 1863.

About 60,000 volunteers mustered in Indianapolis and traveled south to confront Morgan's troops. Through the use of video, theatrical staging, live action and hands-on experiences, exhibit visitors will be made to feel as if they are joining in with the volunteers.

"We can create this immersive experience and tell people you have just volunteered for this militia," said Conner Prairie CEO Ellen Rosenthal. "You were someone who volunteered. You were one who never expected to take up arms."

Conner Prairie, an outdoor history center located along Allisonville Road near Fishers, has raised $2.1 million of the needed funds and began construction of the exhibit in July. It will be located where the 1886 Liberty Corner has been for several years.

Conner Prairie CEO Ellen Rosenthal said she expects the Civil War exhibit to boost membership by 13 percent, which would bring in an extra $67,000. That's how much membership grew this year after the July 2009 opening of the 1859 Balloon Voyage ride.

The Civil War exhibit will be included in Conner Prairie's general admission. Conner Prairie's market research projects overall admission sales will get a $100,000 boost from the exhibit.

Total revenue and expenses at Conner Prairie totaled about $9.5 million in 2009, the latest year for which results are available.

Conner Prairie's timing is pretty good. With 2011 marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, historical institutions around the country expect interest to be especially high.

"The Civil War has enjoyed growing interest as we approach the sesquicentennial," said John Herbst, CEO of the Indiana Historical Society, who noted that the Civil War is always one the top five topics for researchers going through the society's archives.

Conner Prairie found the same thing. In an online survey, as well as focus groups conducted in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Cincinnati, it found that the Civil War drew far more interest than other historical eras such as World War II or the 1960s.

"It was a landslide," said Rosenthal, who estimated that 80 percent opted for Civil War topics. "People are really interested in the Civil War."

Conner Prairie already hosts a Civil War re-enactment during one weekend each May. This year, the so-called "Civil War Days" drew more than 10,000 visitors.

But Conner Prairie has never had a permanent exhibit set during the Civil War. Its core exhibit, Prairietown, is set in 1836. It also has an exhibit on Native Americans set in 1816. Its Liberty Center was set in 1886.

Herbst, who was CEO of Conner Prairie until 2003, said it's a smart strategy for any cultural institution to keep freshening its exhibits, which gives visitors a reason to keep coming back.

"They have to change their offerings, add something new that really catches the people's attention," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • The zoo
    Jeff, I don't know what you're talking about. In the last 5 years or so, the zoo has added exhibits for white rhinos, meerkats, dog shark petting and cheetas. It has also refreshed the elephant exhibit, Oceans, added the dolphin dome and is currently reconfiguring the tiger exhibit to bring them closer to patrons.

    I think the zoo has done an excellent job of adding as much as they can and improving the park, especially given it's limited space on the edge of downtown. True, a one-time visit is costly for a family. It's a much better value to purchase a membership and visit several times a year. Keep in mind, too, that the zoo receives no tax dollars.
  • Will The Zoo Get a Clue
    Wow. Wonder when the Indianapolis Zoo will do something new---besides just charge you money for the same stuff year after year...
  • Sounds great, but
    will the BP logo be plastered on this display as well??
  • Great Educational moments
    Well if complete the thought!
    . I have read my Great Grandfather,who was a Colonel from Indianapolis letters and they are interesting to see what life was like in that time period.
  • Great Educational moments
    I look forward to this exhibit. I have read my Great Grandfather,who was a Colonel from Indianapolis. It is good that people learn more about the heartache and striff of the times. Can't wait to attend.

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

    2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

    3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

    4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

    5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

    ADVERTISEMENT