Hughes brings varied perspective to Conner Prairie

Long before taking the job at Conner Prairie, Hughes invited a representative to a national conference to pres- ent the museum’s famed Follow the North Star program. (Submitted photo)

Long before taking the job at Conner Prairie, Hughes invited a representative to a national conference to present the museum’s famed Follow the North Star program. (Submitted photo)

Catherine Hughes, Ph.D., brings a hybrid’s viewpoint to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.

Hughes took up the mantle of director of interpretation at the Smithsonian Affiliate, 13400 Allisonville Rd., in April.

“Catherine has an extensive track record of developing new and exciting ways to engage visitors with theatrical experiences,” Conner Prairie President and CEO Ellen M. Rosenthal stated. “We are excited to welcome such a high-caliber professional to our team and look forward to the creative and impactful ideas she will bring to the table.”

Her duties include programming and operations for the park’s interactive segments, and special events.

While Hughes has worked in museums for more than 20 years, her education background, which includes theater, education and museum studies along with research and writing, makes her a self-described hybrid.

Before coming to Conner Prairie, she worked at the Atlanta History Center where the Fishers museum was used as a model for transformation. She said the chances that Conner Prairie has taken inspired the Center to do the same, changing up how it was perceived, tackling tough historical topics and adding an “immersive theater experience” depicting a 1906 race riot in Atlanta and featuring interaction.

But she knew of Conner Prairie before that.

“Conner Prairie has a national reputation,” she said. “I had known of Conner Prairie for years.”

In fact, Hughes said when she chaired a national museum conference on slavery’s theatrical interpretation more than 10 years ago, she invited a representative from Conner Prairie to present on Follow the North Star.

“It’s really great to be at a place that has the history of really trying to do the best live interpretation that you can,” she said.

According to Hughes, visitors experience live interpretation when they deal with people instead of observing exhibits or artifacts. Add interaction, and it is first person interpretation.

She said there’s multiple levels of interpretation, and “they’re all done here at Conner Prairie.”

“I think what inspires me is the potential that exists for a guest to have a really inspiring, transformational experience,” she said.

To learn more about Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, visit

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