Living History Introduction


LIVING HISTORY INTRODUCTION For a new and different family trip that can be fun, educational, and very inexpensive, consider a living history vacation. A living history adventure could take you to a Civil War battle re-enactment at the original site, to America's colonial past at Williamsburg's living museum, or a weekend in costume, round-the-fire storytelling, crafts and jousting with a medieval re-creation group. The variations on this theme are endless. Through family history vacations, parents and youngsters can share in hands-on experiences that interest everybody -- grandparents may want to join in the fun as well! This living history folder will include articles on living history, general informational resources, events listings, abbreviated periodicals listings, and traditional recipes. We'll also include lists of resources that can help get you started in your own genealogical searches. Most areas have genealogical societies whose members are ready to share information with you. PICKING AN HISTORICAL HOLIDAY To choose a living history trip, first take a close look at your family's interests. Here are some ideas to get you started: Life at a California Mission * Medieval Europe * Antique Cars * Life of the Mountain Men * Colonial New England * Paddlewheeling on the Mississippi River * Barnstorming Aviators * Civil War * Roman Army Life * The Antebellum South * Traditional Native American Life Start with a very specific interest and see where it leads. For example, if you all enjoy boating and get interested in old sea chanteys, you might end up on a tall ship cruise! If your favorite family hikes always seem to follow old pioneer tracks, where you talk about the pioneers who made the westward trek 150 years ago, you could find yourself building your own equipment and joining a group in Calistoga wagons following the Oregon Trail one summer! If the entire family loves the Civil War era, you might hook up with a group that recreates the battles, clothing and music of that time and find yourself residing on an old plantation for a week! Are your kids fascinated by images of knights in armor, ladies in flowing gowns and veils, and wandering minstrels? If so, the Society for Creative Anachronism awaits you. If Cheyenne blood courses through your veins, you might explore that culture as a family and end up creating authentic tools and explaining Cheyenne customs to curious tourists. LOCAL LIVING HISTORY Living history is as close as your own backyard. Many people get involved in living history through an historic site near their home. Most states include local or state history in their elementary school curriculums. When your kids are studying state or local history at school, take the opportunity to visit local historic sites as a family -- it will help make history come very much alive for your children, and probably for you as well. Local libraries are a great resource to consult when researching local history. Don't be intimidated. Ask the librarian for guidance--they're there to help you. You'll find the more research you undertake, the better you will get at it. You may find out more about the history of old buildings in your community or the events that put your local battlefield on the map. Most communities offer some kind of festival honoring its history and heritage. And don't forget to contact your local historical society, which can provide a wealth of information and enthusiastic advice. And watch for cultural celebrations in your area. You'll probably be surprised at how much each group has contributed to the whole. GENEALOGY Many people get involved in living history through an interest in family history. When the genealogist in the family discovers roots in a specific locale and circumstance, it's a short stretch to going to that area and learning more about the times and places your forefathers and foremothers experienced. Whether your ancestors were fishermen in Maine, slaves in Georgia, Hopi potters, sod farmers in Nebraska, Hawaiian storytellers, Appalachian musicians or Carolina pirates, miners, canal builders or Texas vaqueros, as a family, you can explore and learn from those roots. Your family heritage may inspire you to visit the countries your ancestors called home. WATCHING YOUR Ps and Qs Travel in time is as much a cross-cultural experience as travel to a foreign country. To keep you in good graces with the participants when visiting and/or joining in at an historical re-enactment, festival or site, here are a few basic rules to keep in mind: Most historical recreationists are happy to share their knowledge and invite you into the experience, but not all events are open to the public -- ALWAYS ASK. As a visitor, be certain to follow the guidelines presented to you. There may be any number of reasons for various rules--from insurance to land use laws. Please respect their wishes. Current local laws apply whatever period and style you are re-enacting. Be sure to honor local alcohol use laws, open fire laws, weapons laws, garbage disposal laws, curfew laws, etc. When in doubt -- ASK. Remember, while you are always responsible for your own actions, broken laws can reflect on the host organization, and can cause a great deal of harm. (For instance, under-age drinking violations can close down a group.) This entire experience is about respect. Respect for all who have come before. Respect for what has brought all of us to here and now. The living historians share their knowledge -- show them the respect of listening politely, and thank them for their efforts. Make your children aware that living history participants are not being foolish or strange by dressing and speaking differently. And parents beware! Most kids are born actors and this may bring out the Sarah Bernhardt or Laurence Olivier in each of them. Most of all, let go of the present, and have a great time learning about the past.

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