By now, I would hope most Hoosiers have been to Conner Prairie in Fishers (an Indiana Chamber member and Indiana’s only Smithsonian affiliate) at least once. I remember when — as a fifth grader taking field trips there — my primary delight in visiting was focused on the rock candy in the gift shop. Now, as an adult, I’m happy to say that getting in touch with history is my main motivation — although I still partake in the sweeter rations found on the premises.
But beginning tomorrow, the award-winning interactive history park will turn a page in its long history, as the public is introduced to its latest (and permanent) exhibit: 1863 Civil War Journey. I’m proud to say I serve on a young professionals council for Conner Prairie, and was privy to a sneak peek of the $4.3 million project last week. To say I was impressed would be understating things.
I’ll spare you a lengthy prologue, but the exhibit tells the story of Morgan’s Raid of 1863, in which southern Indiana was invaded by the "rogue" general John Hunt Morgan and his 2,500 cavalrymen in their effort to capture the state for the Confederacy. In researching Civil War sites in the region, I actually discovered that, while we may view Morgan as a villain, Lexington, Kentucky features tours of his home, as well as a monument in his honor. And that in a city just a few hours drive from central Indiana — such a telling commentary on how perspectives in the Civil War could vary so greatly between such short distances.
The exhibit combines live acting with visuals, videos and a remarkably interactive experience, and you simply must see it. The park’s staff has been hard at work on the promotional trail, invading Indy’s city market and gaining mentions both regionally and nationally. Ideally, the journey is for adults and children 10 years and up, and if you have a little one, they’ve also built a new playground in the area. If you’re a history buff or just a casual fan, you will get a great deal out of this. Hope to see you there — and wear yer fightin’ boots.