If you have ever been fascinated with Little House on the Prairie, wanted to live on the open frontier or wondered how early American settlers lived, then the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in Fishers, IN, is the place for you. With its innovative approach to preserving and sharing United States history, Conner Prairie is a much deserving recipient of a 2011 National Medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. My co-facilitator and I had the pleasure of visiting Fisher, IN, to record the stories of the staff and volunteers who make Conner Prairie more than just a place where history comes alive. Check out the slide show below for photos from our trip.
The staff and volunteers at Conner Prairie work hard to make sure their presentation of 1836 America is historically accurate. Besides raising livestock, creating tools in the blacksmith shop, and running the general store, volunteers also make their own clothing in the style of the early pioneers.
Conner Prairie has dedicated a weaving studio to the creation of garments for the museum interpreters. This is where StoryCorps participant Sue Payne spends the majority of her time. In her interview with youth volunteer Sarah Fraser, Sue describes how she developed an interest in spinning and weaving. Upon visiting Conner Prairie for the first time, Sue fell in love with the grounds and continued to visit. “When I was twelve or thirteen, a couple of ladies would come into the loom house, and I’d come sit on the floor cross-legged and watch them. And I started bugging them, ‘Show me. Show me. I wanna know how to do this.’ There was no program back then and I would sneak in and practice. I’ve said that in a previous life, I wasn’t Cleopatra; I was her slave and I did her spinning.” Today, besides running the weaving studio and textile program, Sue teaches spinning and weaving to several groups of youth volunteers, many of whom have won awards for their hand-spun woven garments.
To learn more about this ancient art form, visit The Joy of Handspinning, an educational website that offers free videos and tutorials.