History 🏺 'Living History' Projects

Would you participate in a living history project like Colonial House?

  • Hell yes. Sounds like a fun campin' trip

    Votes: 4 16.7%
  • Hell no. Sounds like a not-so-fun campin' trip

    Votes: 4 16.7%
  • Yes. There'd be a Pizza Hut nearby, right?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No. Life outside the 21st century poses a medical danger for me

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • No. I missed lunch yesterday and already know that starvation aint for me

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • Yes. They'd let me do other peoples' work too, wouldn't they?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Yes. I would make a better pilgrim than planner.

    Votes: 2 8.3%
  • No. Maister, are you planning to publish the results of all these polls someday?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No. Maister, I'm beginning to suspect you don't actually care how we respond.

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • Yes. I believe I would learn something about history

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • Yes...but only if they paid me lots of moolah

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • No. Reading a history book is so much tidier

    Votes: 2 8.3%
  • yes. Well maybe. I mean if it's bad then no, but otherwise yes. Probably.

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • Poll choice for those who refuse to respond

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • Poll choice for those who haven't chosen any other poll choices

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • Poll choice for those who are incapable of following directions or just plain churlish

    Votes: 6 25.0%
  • Yes. It would be good training for the coming collapse of civilization

    Votes: 8 33.3%

  • Total voters
    24
  • Poll closed .

Maister

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Just finished watching the PBS series “Colonial House” that we borrowed from the library. Very interesting stuff. I caught an episode of “Frontier House” on PBS several years ago and became familiar with the underlying premise. The basic idea for Colonial House was to examine history by taking a group of contemporary Americans (and Brits) and placing them in an isolated 1000 acre ‘colony’ property up in Maine to live a 17th century lifestyle; abiding by the laws, social orders (indentured servants etc.) moral standards of the day, dress, food, and living conditions for four months. At the end of four months a team of colonial historical experts evaluated the success of the colony and predicted whether or not the colony would survive based on factors such as the amount of food and fuel they stored, the relations established with indigenous people, social cohesion/discord, and whether or not they exported sufficient goods for profit. The participants of the project received a brief but intensive two week crash course in 17th century life skills, but upon completion were shipped to location where one participant was selected by the ‘company (i.e. the producers) to act as governor and all others were assigned the role/status of freemen or indentured servants.

One thing I found interesting about this was how often and profoundly the participants reported learning how much we (people living in modern industrialized societies) take our convenient lifestyles for granted. One participant put it best and said something like ‘we all knew beforehand that there were going to be primitive living conditions and lots of hard work but we really had no idea just how much labor would be entailed.’ Participants found that virtually everything required work from the moment they woke up until the moment they fell asleep; if they were cold in the morning they had to work to build a fire, if they split an axe handle while chopping wood they had to fashion a whole new handle and that took a several hours; if one wanted a bowl of chicken soup that meant having to chop the chicken’s head off, plucking it, draining it, gathering the vegetables, chopping wood for a fire and putting it all in a caldron to boil. There was virtually no time to appreciate life because their whole existence was spent in the process of subsisting.

I don’t believe that this sort of exercise necessarily provides the best insight for understanding history as it existed, as participants in ‘living history’ projects can’t avoid taking their 21st century knowledge with them and perceive everything through those lenses. Participants in colonial house, for instance, tolerated wearing a ‘scarlet letter’ for their sins because they knew they could walk away in a few months without negative consequences. Not so for a puritan living in 1628.

Perhaps I am a sick puppy but I would be interested in doing a project like Colonial House. For my own part, I have already experienced intense (albeit often pointless) toil from dawn to dusk and being treated like pond scum for several months, so I know I could handle that end of things. But what would be fascinating for me would be to see how the social dynamics unfold as an assemblage of strangers coalesce to form a community under difficult circumstances and strive towards a common goal. That would be worth the price of admission.

How about you, have you seen Frontier house or Colonial house or would you be interested in ‘living history’? What do you think of the value of living history projects?

And for god’s sake it’s been over a week since you were [strikeout]subjected[/strikeout] treated to a poll, so by all means feel free to respond.
 
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kjel

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Maister if you have enough spare time to craft such a ponderous post on colonial life could you please come here and help me put together my economic development loan application.

Yes, I voted for the churlish option. Such a delicious word by the way.
 

michaelskis

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You want to do living history? I will give you a 40 foot wood ladder, a paint bush, and several cans of paint. My house was built in 1890 and it needs a complete scrape and paint.

I am fascinated to learn about history, how people lived, why they did the things that they did, and their impacts on society as a whole. I however do not want to experience that lifestyle.

As a matter of fact, I recently sat down for a couple of hours at the library with a stack of polk directories and found the names of just about everyone who has ever lived in my house. (Some dates missing) This Friday after the baby’s checkup he and I will head to the local archives to do further research on the owners of the property, past building permits, and any other applicable information that we might be able to find.

I have also been tempted to contact family members of the people who owned the house from the late 20’s to the early 70’s to see if they might have any old photos of what the house looked like (inside and out) as I wish to restore much of the true grandeur while providing opportunities for modern amenities. I however enjoy my electricity and forced air heat. We do have three fire places, but I rather not fire the up as the have not been used at least a decade.

These types of shows are interesting but insane. If the people enjoy being there, more power to them. I rather live my life than pretend that modern amenities (such as my blackberry) don’t exist.
 

mendelman

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I would be willing to do a show like Colonial House, though Manor House would be much easier to cope with - especially if your one of the upper class people.
 

Tom R

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pole

What does Churlish mean? Sounds like an effeminate Israeli. ( I looked it up. My picture was next to it.)
 
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ofos

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Perhaps I am a sick puppy but I would be interested in doing a project like Colonial House. For my own part, I have already experienced intense (albeit often pointless) toil from dawn to dusk and being treated like pond scum for several months, so I know I could handle that end of things.

Perhaps? I think that all of us who have done the military thing know that we can handle boredom, serfdom and pointless tasks for an extended period of time but that's not to say that I'd want to do it again. I wouldn't mind trying my hand at living in different historical periods but not for enjoyment by the general public. BTW, if those folks in the historical reality shows had been given rigorous training on how to use the tools at their disposal beforehand, a lot of those tasks wouldn't have taken nearly as long. I disliked those PBS shows nearly as much as the commercial "reality" shows because artificial stresses were introduced to make them more entertaining.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

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I claim the official colony position of : Colony Brew-Master!


By being the brewer, I will have a geographic location with at least potable water. I can begin to sell my product from the very first batch. Because I am the brewer, my drink will always be safe to drink, unlike plain water. Even the native Americans will like my products.

Corn is an acceptable adjunct in beer, as well as honey, and some fruits and flavoring agents. All of my resources will not have to come from the local sources. I will accept payment for my beers from native Americans in the form of edible animals, which I can then establish the first Inn/Pub/meat market in order to sell these commodities to my local colony members.

I intend to partner with the cooper, make wagons te sell to the native Americans, who will fill them with beaver skins for trade back to the old world.

Sure I would like to try one of these events. Now, how to talk my boss into it! :-D
 

Whose Yur Planner

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BTW, if those folks in the historical reality shows had been given rigorous training on how to use the tools at their disposal beforehand, a lot of those tasks wouldn't have taken nearly as long. I disliked those PBS shows nearly as much as the commercial "reality" shows because artificial stresses were introduced to make them more entertaining.

You bring up a good point. The people who lived back then knew how to operate the equipment. They knew how to use a spoke shave, an adze, how to make candles, twine, etc. We've covered this topic before, but most people don't know how to make things. We end up going to Walmart for something the Chinese made.
 

btrage

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I would most likely find myself dead within 48 hours of the show beginning. Either by a wood-chopping accident, or by the mouth of a bear as I wonder the woods looking for somewhere to watch the Red Wings game.

Yeah, I'm not the most self-sufficient, but at least I know my weaknesses. ;-)
 

Richmond Jake

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I couldn't buy beer in a city in this county before 1:00 pm on a Sunday---we were on the way to the beach!!!. That's as primitive as I want to live.
 

beach_bum

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Give up modern conveniences? How about taking my modern student loans away...I'd do it for the money ;-)
 

Mud Princess

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I've been camping with Cub Scouts. That's as primitive as I ever want to be.

Me too. While I love the outdoors, I need modern conveniences, like heat and electricity and hot showers, to survive (i.e., to be tolerable around other people ;-)).

That said, I am fascinated by history and have enjoyed watching these programs. I don't need to experience it to appreciate it.
 

mendelman

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Slavery, child abuse/child labor, lack of building, safety, and health codes, etc.
But what's your point within the context of being a participant in a show like Colonial House?

Obviously, such a show is not going to allow real slavery or child labor, but it did have participants that were "indentured" characters. But it was a choice to play that part and surely were not forced into the role.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

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A neat High School class would be to have a "Primitive Home Ec." class. It would teach things like how to make soap, rope, tan hides, use 1750 era tools, and to make Scandinavian style structures that are equivalent to "snap tight" projects not requiring nails, screws or rope for construction (still in use and common in Norway until the turn of the last century). I would have taken it.

Also, a colony requires communal living and effort until everyone is sheltered and the first couple sets of crops are in and harvested successfully.
 

mgk920

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What if they hold a Civil War re-enactment and they cancel the battle?

A bit of a timely item here - The Appleton (WI) School District has, for many years, had a very popular program where one day in the late spring, they have a 'living history' day where the fifth graders go to a (USA) Civil War encampment, where they learn about the basic trappings of day-to-day life in this über-important part of the USA's history and very being.

Well, the 'war and violence are BAD' PCs of the district just canceled its most popular with the students part - the mock battle.

http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20090312/APC0101/903120521/1003/APC01

:r:

:-@

Mike
 

illinoisplanner

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But what's your point within the context of being a participant in a show like Colonial House?

Obviously, such a show is not going to allow real slavery or child labor, but it did have participants that were "indentured" characters. But it was a choice to play that part and surely were not forced into the role.

Well, I guess it's different in a show like Colonial House, but if you wanted to be really historically accurate, then many aspects would probably be illegal today.
 

ofos

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Well, I guess it's different in a show like Colonial House, but if you wanted to be really historically accurate, then many aspects would probably be illegal today.

Why am I feeling like it's deja vu all over again? You could also say that many aspects of today would have been illegal then.
 

mgk920

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Well, I guess it's different in a show like Colonial House, but if you wanted to be really historically accurate, then many aspects would probably be illegal today.
Don't forget that they did not have indoor plumbing (think: 'outhouses and chamber pots', also 'wash dishes and clothes in the creek'), cooked over open fires in large fireplaces (think: 'fire codes and environmental laws'), had to hunt and fish for subsistence (think: 'open vs. closed hunting and fishing seasons'), used firearms for day-to-day life and defense (think: 'gun control laws'), kept farm animals in and around the house (think: 'zoning, environmental and nuisance laws'), etc.

A lot has changed since then.

:-c

Mike
 

Duke Of Dystopia

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Don't forget that they did not have indoor plumbing (think: 'outhouses and chamber pots', also 'wash dishes and clothes in the creek'), cooked over open fires in large fireplaces (think: 'fire codes and environmental laws'), had to hunt and fish for subsistence (think: 'open vs. closed hunting and fishing seasons'), used firearms for day-to-day life and defense (think: 'gun control laws'), kept farm animals in and around the house (think: 'zoning, environmental and nuisance laws'), etc.

A lot has changed since then.

:-c

Mike

Its not just firearms and animals that could kill you. Farming or attempting it could do it just as easily if not even more likely.

Early canning used lead to seal cans. Improper storage of your food products could lead to food poisoning or worse (think ergot fungus) among other things. pickling of foods, how many people know how to or that they should check the seal to see if botulism could be present?

Farm accidents like being mauled by a bull, or kicked by a cow. Why you don't move around during a snow event due to whiteout and being lost in it. Not leaving your children where they can get into the pig pen. Cooking your pork thoroughly to avoid hookworm. Locust/Cicada swarms. Flood, storms, mudslides, and I am sure there was lots that could kill or permanently maim you. Hell, A broken leg or arm was a life threatening illness.

Yet, many would take the opportunity to live under these conditions for free land and a new start. Tells you something about the human condition and spirit.
 
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And for god’s sake it’s been over a week since you were [strikeout]subjected[/strikeout] treated to a poll, so by all means feel free to respond.
sd_cnfusd.png

"I would be honoured to do so, but it is closed."
 

Maister

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Are you thinking about putting together a real-life experience--or a very detailed and 'realistic' virtual experience?
I'm not "putting together" a real life experience but I believe one will be provided for many of us in the not distant future. To that end I am making preparations by learning as much as I can about making things from scratch, using hand tools, and growing food. If nothing else and I'm dead wrong at least it's an enjoyable hobby.
 

Gotta Speakup

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A bit of a timely item here - The Appleton (WI) School District has, for many years, had a very popular program where one day in the late spring, they have a 'living history' day where the fifth graders go to a (USA) Civil War encampment, where they learn about the basic trappings of day-to-day life in this über-important part of the USA's history and very being.

Well, the 'war and violence are BAD' PCs of the district just canceled its most popular with the students part - the mock battle.

http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20090312/APC0101/903120521/1003/APC01

:r:

:-@

Mike

More participants died of disease than of war injuries. I would only take these reennactments seriously if they make everyone go without sanitation and medicine.
 

ofos

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I'm not "putting together" a real life experience but I believe one will be provided for many of us in the not distant future. To that end I am making preparations by learning as much as I can about making things from scratch, using hand tools, and growing food. If nothing else and I'm dead wrong at least it's an enjoyable hobby.

What is a good source for finding this scratch that you speak of? Apparently, you can make just about anything from it. Except squat or diddly squat, can't do anything with them. :-D
 

mgk920

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Cooler heads have prevailed - the battle is back on

A bit of a timely item here - The Appleton (WI) School District has, for many years, had a very popular program where one day in the late spring, they have a 'living history' day where the fifth graders go to a (USA) Civil War encampment, where they learn about the basic trappings of day-to-day life in this über-important part of the USA's history and very being.

Well, the 'war and violence are BAD' PCs of the district just canceled its most popular with the students part - the mock battle.

http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20090312/APC0101/903120521/1003/APC01

:r:

:-@

Mike
After nearly starting their own little bit of history, the mock battle in the Appleton (WI) School District's annual 5th Grade Civil War encampment is back on.

:)

See:
http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20090320/APC0101/903200490/1003/APC01

Also see:
http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20090320/APC0602/903200493/1003

This is a BIG thing around here and eagerly awaited every year by the students.

Mike
 

Maister

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Bump.

So I have become a big fan of historian, Ruth Goodman. She's made a whole lot of 'living history' shows for British television since I posted this thread, such as Tales from the Green Valley, Tudor Monastery Farm, Edwardian Farm, Victorian Farm, Secrets of the Castle, Wartime Farm, and Victorian Pharmacy.

It's amazing the sheer number of household skills we've lost over the years, thanks to domestic machines. Another thing that quickly becomes clear is that the British public is vastly more interested in history than their American counterparts.
 

mendelman

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I, for one, do not want to wash clothes by hand. thankyouverymuch.
 

dandy_warhol

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Bump.

So I have become a big fan of historian, Ruth Goodman. She's made a whole lot of 'living history' shows for British television since I posted this thread, such as Tales from the Green Valley, Tudor Monastery Farm, Edwardian Farm, Victorian Farm, Secrets of the Castle, Wartime Farm, and Victorian Pharmacy.

It's amazing the sheer number of household skills we've lost over the years, thanks to domestic machines. Another thing that quickly becomes clear is that the British public is vastly more interested in history than their American counterparts.
There's your blog. Living a colonial life while working for a 21st century government. What will the developers say when you show up with your buckskin cap and musket?

Tune in next week to find out.
 

Maister

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There's tamer versions of 'living history' available for those who just want to watch it, as opposed to live it. Greenfield Village - Henry Ford's brainchild is well worth the trip. I understand there's a nice site around Rochester, NY called the Genessee Country Village. The whole town of Bardstown Kentucky seems to be devoted to history.
 

Whose Yur Planner

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There's tamer versions of 'living history' available for those who just want to watch it, as opposed to live it. Greenfield Village - Henry Ford's brainchild is well worth the trip. I understand there's a nice site around Rochester, NY called the Genessee Country Village. The whole town of Bardstown Kentucky seems to be devoted to history.
I've been Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village several times. It's well worth it. Plus Michigan also has Dutch Village. I've been there several time.

Bardstown has part of it as historic. The historic Talbott Inn is well worth a visit. The rest of Bardstown in a regular town. However, they do have several whisky and bourbon distilleries there. Plus, Loretta Kentucky is where they make Makers Mark. It's an interesting place to visit.If you go there, head over the Hodgenville, Kentucky. They have both Lincoln's birthplace and boyhood home.
 
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