Saturday, June 1, 2013

Living History Today

Sis practicing her yarn sewing at the historic house.
I was as giddy as a child on Christmas Eve yesterday as I prepared for our open house event at the historic house.  I gathered supplies, bringing along faux food for children to cook in the 18th-century fireplace as well as real cookies to share with the volunteers.  I checked and double-checked clothing, both our costumes (I wore my maroon long-sleeved bodice with my yellow floral skirt and a new navy overskirt, with all the proper accoutrements like pockets, mop cap, and shift) and our extra clothes for afterwards.  I printed copies of our mailing list and family workshop sign-up sheets, which I had totally forgotten to do until late last not--I definitely felt out of practice in presenting a museum program.  And I packed my basket.  Have you ever noticed that costumed historical interpreters carry around baskets with all of their things?  I had a little bit of knitting, some embroidery floss in case I needed to dress my paddle loom again, and a bit of yarn sewing I'd started years ago at Old Sturbridge Village but had never finished.  You know, just some fun stuff to do and demonstrate if the time arose.

See, it was my first non-tour-based experience at costumed interpreting, in other words, inhabiting an historical space and casually conversing with visitors about the time, place, lifestyle, activities (as opposed to lecturing on a prescribed tour route.)  I was so excited because I have always loved costumed interpreters.  The interpretation is third person, meaning I'm a 21st-century educator explaining another time period, not someone in the first-person pretending actually to inhabit another time period as a real individual.  I'd like to try that sometime.  Later.  It takes a lot more knowledge of a specific character and their unique historical point of view as well as considerable acting skills.

We had lots of volunteers at the house today, which was good because the trickle of visitors while not overwhelming was relatively constant, picking up as the day wore on.  We had volunteers out front welcoming visitors, docents giving shortened tours of the house, and Sis and Bud (though mostly Sis because Bud had kung fu for the first half) demonstrating games like graces and hoops outside and cat's cradle inside as well as playing with the faux food in the fireplace with the young visitors. They were both naturals as docents!  Sis tried her hand at yarn sewing and paddle loom weaving but preferred to play kitchen or graces (i.e. 2 people playing catch using little hoops and sticks.)  Bud liked showing everyone cat's cradle.  We had instructions and cat's cradle strings to give away, as well as self-guided house tour pamphlets, colonial activities pamphlet for kids, docent recruitment flyers, and summer family workshop flyers.  We had a fair number of visitors, several of them friends and neighbors of ours, which delighted us all.

Mama was, as usual, immensely helpful behind the scenes, lugging the cooler with ice and water plus all the above-mentioned items, as well as taking the kids for lunch, and keeping an eye on them when they were outside and I was inside.  And no, she didn't have a costume.  Not yet, anyway.

The only downside was my back, which chose the day to be testy, probably after last Sunday's spasm and Thursday's extraordinarily busy day.  I found I couldn't sit comfortably to demonstrate any of the fun things in my basket but was more comfortable walking around.  In fact, I think my favorite part was actually demonstrating the yarn sewing to Sis, who then tried her hand at it independently, as shown above.  It was great fun to play with her in the house--with the sewing, at the fireplace, out watering the herb garden, and playing graces out front.  I think she really enjoyed it, too.

Because I'm pretty sure she's caught the history bug.

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