Sunday, February 7, 2010

That Voodoo You Do So Well...............

As most of you are aware, one of my biggest investments in time, money and effort in my day to day life is the world of living history (a.k.a. reenacting) I currently delve into several time periods, to include The French and Indian War, The American Revolution, The War of 1812, as well as the American Civil War. The biggest question that folks ask me is "why?" On many occasions I have tried to figure out the answer to that question, and have come to the conclusion that there just isn't a simple one. At least for me.

The biggest part of it would be my personal quest for knowledge. I have always wondered about things. Why and how things happened, what things were like. The world of living history gives me a very small taste of what it might have been like.

Now I know on multiple levels that there is no way in God's green earth that we can replicate the past nor would I really want to with it's early deaths, lack of modern medicine and sanitation, and the absolute lack of almost all modern conveniences that we enjoy today. I sure as heck don't do this to glorify war or death either. However I firmly believe that during times of great conflict, that mankind in general shows it's true nature or face if you will, both it's greatness as well as it's dark evil side. Now that is a tool that I can use to teach and share my discoveries with the public.
You see, not only do "I" learn, I also share with whoever is interested in the information. (And can put up with my pontifications) History is a very hard thing for people to grasp unless it directly involves them. If you stick your hand on a hot stove, you will not do it again. But how do people make the connection with something that happened 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, or even 200 years ago? That's when living history comes in. When I go to a historic site, school, genealogy group or where ever folks invite me and set out my displays of period weapons, medical tools, clothing and other items of material culture it gives the public a chance to connect with the past, in so ever a fleeting manner.

I once went to a school and asked a 16 year old student to put on a British wool uniform coat from the Rev War and told him to shoulder my 11 lb. replica Brown Bess musket for about 5 minutes. Then I explained the average British soldier got one uniform coat a year and he wore it both summer and winter. So he slept in it, ate in it, worked in it and marched in it. I let the students ask questions to both me and my young assistant and you could see the lights starting to come on behind the eyes. They had made the connection and had put a human face on those spirits of the past. The mantra that I tell people is that in the 18th and 19th century, people were born, fell in love, had babies, worried about their bills and died hoping that their kids would have a better life than they did. Now how much different is that from today?

There are other reasons I do living history, material culture and the ability to recreate items and tools from the past, the fellowship with like-minded individuals and just the sheer fun of it. The one reason that I don't think I do this is escapism. Again, I think I am way too much a pragmatist and realist to think that I can transport myself back in time. But that isn't to condemn those who feel that they can. There is a very interesting article at a friend who I have never met's blog site that was taken from CNN about those who look at living history as a method of escaping the 21st century. Again, very interesting read. Check it out:

So now, you know why I spend countless hours doing what I do in, clothing that went out of style a long time ago.

1 comment:

Nancy R. said...

I was going to link to you with an explanation as to why I do the voodoo, too, but after touching on my degree in Heritage Preservation, making maps for cruise missles, being a costumed tour guide, a Groucho Marx quote, and the infamous "You think they screwed Christ to the cross?" story, I still wasn't any closer to an answer. Maybe I'll post it anyway.