Conner Prairie receives nation’s highest honor



Current in Noblesville
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, Indiana’s only Smithsonian Affiliate, has been named one of 10 recipients of the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Services, the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries. The annual award, given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) since 1994, recognizes institutions for outstanding social, educational, environmental, or economic contributions to their communities. Conner Prairie will receive the National Medal at a ceremony held later this year in Washington, D.C., and a $10,000 award in recognition of their extraordinary contributions.
“Conner Prairie’s highest goal is to remain relevant to guests and the community and to provide an environment of shared learning that is meaningful for the everyone involved both during their visit and afterwards,” says Conner Prairie President and Chief Executive Officer Ellen M. Rosenthal. “We are thrilled to receive this tremendous recognition for what we do each day. This award is a tribute to our staff, board and volunteers; they always put the community first,” further states Rosenthal.
U.S. Representative Dan Burton (IN-05), nominated Conner Prairie for the award. He says, “Conner Prairie continues to build its great reputation as a place for learning and fun for children of all ages. Whether you’re visiting to learn about early American history, take in a concert at Symphony on the Prairie, or enjoy the 1859 Balloon Voyage, the memories last a lifetime. To earn such a distinguished award speaks very highly to the efforts made by Conner Prairie.”
“This year’s National Medal winners are serving their communities with innovative and creative new approaches to lifelong learning, commitment to addressing diverse community needs, plain old hard work, and a lot of heart,” said IMLS Acting Director Marsha L. Semmel.  “Many of our winners have evolved and grown despite tremendous challenges – all to empower and enrich the lives of their community members by cultivating collaboration and openness. I am deeply appreciative of their efforts to make a difference. They serve as the nation’s role models.”
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park is renowned for its innovative approach to guest learning. It offers diverse programs that are designed to engage and connect people of all ages and backgrounds with each other and the past, on 850 wooded acres within four themed areas depicting 19th-century Indiana.
As a leader in the field, Conner Prairie is always looking for ways to serve the local and national museum community and created Opening Doors, an innovative training program for frontline staff, that is being used by more than 450 sites in 50 states and a dozen countries.  
“People remark that our approach and the experiences we offer are genuine and memorable,” explains Rosenthal,. Guests are encouraged to think through historic occurrences as if they were “in the shoes” of people who lived in the 1800s and relate them to their own lives today – whether they are new to 1836 Prairietown, replicating an attempt to fly across the continent in the 1859 Balloon Voyage exhibit depicting the first air mail delivery, or taking on the role of a fugitive slave fleeing from captivity and risking everything for freedom on the Underground Railroad program, Follow the North Star.  
The experiences at Conner Prairie are informed by some of American history’s most formative chapters. And through its interactive programming for guests, Conner Prairie has established itself as a community gathering place, where history can be celebrated and explored in a safe and welcoming environment.