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Museums prepare to open permanent exhibits

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Conner Prairie and the Children's Museum of Indianapolis each plan to open new permanent exhibits in June at a combined cost of $8.5 million.

Adding to existing offerings has been more of a financial stretch for Conner Prairie, which embarked on its first capital campaign in 20 years to create "1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana," CEO Ellen Rosenthal said.

Though Conner Prairie added a balloon-ride exhibit, "1859 Balloon Voyage," in 2009, that attraction was underwritten largely through sponsorship, Rosenthal said

This time, the interactive history park in Fishers relied more on individual donors and foundation funds to raise $3.6 million toward the $4.2 million price tag for the new Civil War experience. "I can't thank our community of supporters enough for making this possible," Rosenthal said.

The new exhibit, which opens June 4, takes visitors through the experience of volunteering to defend the state from a raid by Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan. Morgan's Raiders, as they came to be known, crossed the Ohio River into Indiana and then Ohio in July of 1863 — the farthest trip north by uniformed southern troops during the war.

The interactive experience features Conner Prairie's signature live interpreters and period settings, plus holographic images, video and sound.

The Children's Museum opens "National Geographic Treasures of the Earth" on June 11. The cost of the $4.3 million exhibit was covered by a comprehensive fundraising campaign that brought in more than $75 million for a variety of projects, including the museum's annual operating fund. The last new, permanent installation at the museum was "Take Me There Egypt," which opened in 2009.

"Treasures of the Earth" takes visitors through replications of three major archeological sites, the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Seti I, the burial site of China's Terra Cotta Warriors and the Caribbean shipwreck of Captain Kidd's Cara Merchant.

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