Conner Prairie is one of only nine organizations nationwide participating in a Smithsonian Institution program to foster community engagement and encourage community conversations.
The museum’s project, “Promised Land as Proving Ground,” will portray faith-based African American culture through food, music, dance, and activism from pre-colonial Africa to the present day. Director of Exhibits Jesse Kramer said it will be unique.
“This is the first time that Conner Prairie has put into action, a permanent exhibition that focuses on the history of the African American experience in the United States,” “This a totally new experience that will be infused into Prairie Town, which is one of the main exhibition spaces that we have here.”
The exhibit will explore the role of religion in the lives of antebellum Black settlers, who often thought of the Northwest Territory – made up of what is now Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin – as their Promised Land.
Kramer said the project is a way for the living history museum to engage with the community and have residents help tell the story.
“It's something that really ties in with the work that we're trying to do with this project,” Kramer said. “We really want to strengthen our relationship with the African American community here in Indianapolis; to be able to tell a full story of history that has not necessarily been told here in a concrete way in the past.”
The exhibition will be constructed in three sections in multiple locations throughout Conner Prairie with completion expected in 2023.