13 April 2012

Living History

I wanted to write about my experience volunteering at a living history museum, which is a place where people dress up in costumes appropriate for a certain time period and re-enact that time period and where guests can come and interact with the people and learn about this historic time period. I wanted to write about this because a lot of the interesting times of my childhood are related to being a historic interpreter.

In many ways, it was an ideal experience for me. I love history, and I love stories, and being a historic interpreter is basically living a story. I got to dress up in a beautiful dress and apron and day cap that my mom made me. I got to take lessons in things that interested me like sewing, whittling, gardening, folk music and dancing. I got to learn about historic games and interact with other kids with interests similar to mine who I probably never would have otherwise met, including my second-cousin's daughter. I got to be somebody else for a day, and I learned how to fake being an extrovert, how to interact with strangers. I even got some leadership opportunities.

There's a lot I could say about how great it was to volunteer here as a kid. Really, a lot. But sometimes it still is painful to think of because of how it ended. When I was old enough, I applied for employment at the museum, and I got the job. I was very excited. However, I was repeatedly assigned to an area I did not like. It was basically giving tours of a historic house, and not in costume. I was disappointed but determined to make the best of it. I had some extra resentment due to new people being trained to work in the areas I wanted to work in, and which I already had 5 years of experience in as well as having all the necessary costumes, when these people were brand-new. There was also a lot of high-level politics going on at the time, which I'm sure was a major focus for a lot of people. I didn't continue employment the next summer. I tried to volunteer but never managed to get on a schedule, despite calling several times. Eventually, I apparently dropped off the books. That hurt. That still hurts.

But still, there were five years of really quite good times. I'm several years and several states away from my living history experience, but I still love history and I still wish I was involved in living history. I especially love watching historic craftspeople. I went to a renaissance fair in Maryland last fall, and I easily could have spent hours just watching people weave, blow glass, or whatever! I keep thinking about making a trip down to Colonial Williamsburg sometime in the next couple months. I should probably hit up Mount Vernon, too. It's pretty ridiculous to be nostalgic for living history when I'm practically living in the national capitol.