Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Living History 2016 in Cute Baby Pictures – Spring Edition

Another year has gone by. Another one full of dressing up, learning, and having fun in history. What I learned this year is that there is a history themed event going on within 3 hours of my house every single weekend, though only a few of them are kid-friendly. Also, that I have very high expectations of what a history-themed event should include. Here is the highlight post.

Our very local-est of events is a winter time marketplace SCA event in Manchester, NH. In 2015 I could not go because of a snowstorm, and I missed it this year (2017) due to stomach bug, but we did get to go last year! It is mostly a chance to see a lot of old friends in the middle of the winter, since the items for sale are varied and either not in our period (16th Century) or not historical enough for us. But the chance to get out of the house, dress up, and hang out with friends in the winter is always appreciated.

Early Modern Muster of Arms
This past year there were only two of us who went out to Fort Wayne, Indiana. I actually left Percy and Stephen at home! There was too much drinking and not enough history for everyone else to come out, but since I stayed in the kitchen most of the weekend, I had plenty of history and very little drinking. I actually had more interesting history experiences on the way out and the way back than actually at the event itself.

My companion this year was incredibly agreeable, so on the way out we stopped in Seneca Falls at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, which is run by the National Park Service. The building where the first national women’s suffrage convention took place is still standing, but not in the same form as it was in 1840 (its last function was an auto repair garage) but still, you can go inside and sit in the space. The museum next door was quite good, geared towards both those that already had a background in American Women’s Suffrage, and those who are new to the history. As a pilgrimage site, I’m very glad that we went.

On Sunday we left the event early, because one of the most well known Living History museums (at least among academic circles) is in Indiana, and since I was pretty sure this was my last year going out to this event this was my last chance to go see it. Yes, it was several hours out of our way, but when you’re on a road trip… We went to Conner Prairie. What a big site! There was no Greeter or introduction video, we just got our map with our tickets and fumbled our way through for the next few hours.

We went to three distinct areas: the 1830s village, the Civil War village, and the original house. The 1836 Prairietown is the part that I had read about in school, and heard about at conferences. It is a “village” of moved-in houses where everyone is first person, and representing early life on the prairie. I was hoping for meaningful conversations, but we did not get a single person off their well rehearsed script and onto more in-depth topics. Nobody felt real, they all felt like they were acting. I know it can be better than that.

The Civil War village was interesting because it incorporated video and audio, the whole area was telling one unified story of a confederate raid. There was a script, and an order to which you should tour the buildings, and it was mostly well rehearsed. The volunteers at the end of the tour were annoying, but I thought the rest was very well done, as long as you were content with the info they were giving you. The Conner Homestead also felt newly reinterpreted, not just a static display in the historic house, but really informative panels and hands-on activities in every room. I am very glad we stopped, because it was a lovely day and I can say I’ve been there. I had high expectations, really probably too high, but I did have a nice time anyways.

Watch City Steampunk Festival
Steampunk isn't real history. Also, we're totally late to the party. But anything that is history inspired where I get to wear my historical clothes, and possibly make contacts for work is worth the outing. I raided my 1870s clothing bin and wore my pink silk corset, and matching pink ruffled petticoat totally exposed beneath my black wool maid's outfit. Stephen pulled out his wild west stuff along with a lovely coat made by friends of ours: Chrononaut Merchantile. A few weeks before I was perusing our local kid's used clothing store and found a little tuxedo! I'm sure it was originally worn to a wedding, and probably only worn once. Steampunk is fluid in time, and Percy is cute in just about anything, so he wore a tux.

We arrived just at the beginning of a dreary sort of day, took a turn through the vendors and decided the only thing we had any interest in was the food (which is generally the case at renfaires too.) The music was actually quite good, and the people watching was fun. I reconnected with the NH Wheelmen who used to come to a lot of the Museum events, and we chatted for a long time with a reenactment group that was portraying Zouaves because they also do earlier times: pike and shot like we do, and many of their members have interest in armor just like Stephen. We ran out of time to do any of the local museums, or indoor activities so I guess we'll have to go back again.

NH Renaissance Faire
The spring of 2016 was about Percy and I going on historical adventures, just the two of us. Our first such foray was to the NH Renaissance faire, just two towns over from where we live. I forget why Stephen could not come, He was traveling, or sick or something, so Percy and I set off on our own. No big deal, we have so many friends at the NH Faire that if we had needed assistance we could have asked for it. As it was we did just fine walking around, talking with friends, eating faire food, listening to music. I passed out business cards to musicians who I thought would be good additions to Candlelight Stroll, basically anyone who performed historical music and did not mind being outside in all weather. It was hot so I stripped Percy down to his historical underwear and he charmed everyone by playing with his historical toys. As a small renfaire it was more about dressing up and hanging with friends than anything historical, which puts it on the “maybe” list instead of the “definitely go again” for 2017.

Massachusetts WWII weekend
My co-worker says this is our Grapes of Wrath look.
I am interested in all sorts of living history. If it is an event where I get to dress up and will see history in action, I want to be a part of it. So Percy and I drove out to far central, almost Western Mass. to the Massachusetts WWII weekend . There were a lot of tanks. A lot. Percy has fairly sensitive hearing, so the shooting and the flame throwers were not his cup of tea. But he thought the (Modern) helicopter was a ton of fun. We walked around the different reenactment groups, and sat in some of the jeeps. The groups that had the most interesting set up, from a non-participant perspective were definitely the German camps. They had good signage, talked about food and shelter, did quite a bit of interacting with the public. The other groups mostly talked amongst themselves, they let you look at their equipment but did not bother trying to engage; even with folks in costume, even after remarking on how adorable Percy was in his sailor suit. I got a few business cards out of the trip, but most of the groups that seemed at all interested in an event at a museum in New Hampshire were the folks in their 50s and up who would not mind bringing out their cars. I’ve got an antique car group already. Before I left I asked about an APO dance in the evening, and if they might be interested in that next year. I guess they had done one the year before and found the interest to be mediocre in holding another. I did get a very nice photo of Percy and I inside one of the jeeps, and I got a better idea of what WWII events are expected (by their participants) to be.

Immersion Weekend

Like 2015 we planned a weekend to spend in the woods behind our house totally in character with no modern intrusions. We came up with a different scenario for 2016: visiting a small shrine after a victorious battle. Saturday was hot, and many of our guild members exhausted themselves building shelves into our trailer to better keep track of all the guild stuff, so we ended up staying inside in the air conditioning on Saturday night and just watching Tudor Monastery Farm, which counts as historical. Instead we went out on Sunday morning, did a bit of exploring, visited our makeshift shrine, and had a celebratory meal. It was not nearly as cool as the year before, but we also did not kill ourselves, and that is a good thing.

I feel like we were in custume way more than that, but last spring seems long ago now. I’m sure that we had guild workshops, and outings with friends where we did not dress up which only sort-of count. And I guess for the early reenactment season, with toddler in tow, that is really good enough. Summer and fall are coming in the next post!

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