I don’t know about you, but I love living history museums like Connor Prairie-Interactive History Park. It’s so much more fun when you can touch and do instead of just look at things behind glass. Connor Prairie is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. Stepping inside the visitor center there were some fabulous interactive displays to teach us about the time periods and activities we would be exploring later on outside like the 1836 prairie town, an 1859 Balloon voyage, and an 1863 Civil War journey. One of the more memorable things to check out in the visitor center was a computer terminal where you could assemble a quilt online. There was also a dress up area and Yvonne and Joel and I each put on some period costumes and had a ball “vogueing” for pictures.
After our little “orientation” we headed outside to the prairie town to explore what life was like. We ventured into a few homes one of which is the original Connor residence built in 1823, and compared how they were the same and different to our own homes. We learned about cooking, and gardening and wool spinning from costumed guides who interacted with us as if the year was 1836. The kids and I loved taking part in the experiences when we were offered the chance to do so. As these museums always do, visiting Connor Prairie impressed upon us what life was really like for these prairie pioneers. And we left with a greater appreciation for the things we take for granted such as the ability to buy whatever we need at the supermarket instead of growing a lot of it ourselves and to cook easily by simply turning on the stove instead of building a real fire. I think the kids were charmed by the quick experiences and so we talked about how these things were chores that they would have had to do to help the family survive. I think it’s really important when visiting places like this to put in all into perspective, back then this was every day living for families.
Everyone’s hands down favorite was the barn where we got up close and personal with the baby chicks, ducks, sheep and cows. They were all just too adorable! The staff showed us how to cup our hands and gently pick up the baby chicks that were just little yellow balls of fluff. My kids don’t handle barn animals every day so it was so endearing to watch them handle the animals with love and tenderness.
Moving onto the frontier exhibit, we had the great fortune to come across a young 15-year-old intern who was dressed in some kind of Daniel Boone-type garb. I think my kids were really humbled by this incredible young man who was super knowledgeable and yet not much older than they were. He explained about what he was wearing and what life was like for Native Americans and fur trappers and led us to participate in an axe throwing activity. Raising the axe above our head, we flung it one at a time at a wooden target and all of us hit it at least once. Next he showed us how to light a fire with a flint like stone called Chirt. Watch the video for a glimpse into the past as we learn how to start a fire using some flint, a piece of steel, some pre-made charcoal, and some twine or a birds nest.