Conner Prairie Chief Executive Officer Ellen Rosenthal says she will retire at the end of the year. She has led the history park since 2005. Under her leadership, annual attendance at the Fishers attraction has grown to more than 360,000 and its budget has reached nearly $12 million. The attraction says it will work with a national recruiting firm to find a successor. Rosenthal made the announcement during an early-morning meeting today with employees.
In a release, Rosenthal said, “This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. As I looked back on what I set out to accomplish when I took over leadership, I realized how much we’ve completed and realized that it was time to retire. Working at Conner Prairie for the last 16 has been the most rewarding segment of my long career in the museum industry.”
During Rosenthal's tenure, Conner Prairie was awarded the National Medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, which is considered the nation's highest honor for museums. The museum was also one of six nationwide to be featured in “Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement,” published by AAM Press, and is Indiana's only Smithsonian-affiliated museum.
She has shown considerable success in fundraising as well, including securing $4.5 million to create the Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana exhibit in 2011. The park also landed a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help open the indoor experience Create.Connect last year.
Rosenthal also piloted conversation-based learning studies that has evolved into a process called Opening Doors. Conner Prairie says that system is now used by around 1,200 museums worldwide.
Rosenthal has a bachelor's degree from Barnard College at Columbia University in New York City and master's degrees from the University of Delaware and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The honors she has earned include a Torchbearer award from the state of Indiana in 2013 and a Commitment to Creativity Trailblazer award from University High School last year.
She joined Conner Prairie in 1999 as vice president of internal affairs.