July 24, 2012

"But What is it Worth?" (and Why You Shouldn't Answer It) The Price of Antiques

As a person in the history field, I hear this question a lot. Sometimes I explain to a tour group that we can't touch anything in the rooms, because most  of the furniture is over 200 years old. Someone, either adult or child, will invariably point to an object and ask "What is it worth?"

"This object gives historians a lot of information about how people lived in the 1700s. This information was not recorded in books and therefore it is of considerable value to historians."

That's not what they want to hear. They will then clarify their question as if I didn't understand, "How much money is it worth?"

I don't know if it is today's economy, but lately historical artifacts seem to be about the money that can be made. Shows like American Pickers, Pawn Stars, American Digger and many others put an emphasis on the price tag of antiques instead of their educational, historical and cultural value. It is an even more grave situation, when people are prompted to loot historic sites, like what happened in Gettysburg two weeks ago.

It's really important for history educators to go over the basics of archeology and the importance of artifacts and antiques to our understanding of history. Tell your listeners the importance of the information gained from archeological sites and how the artifacts collected are not the goal, but a result of archeologists excavating for information. Try to bring the focus off the antiques and artifacts and try to emphasis how important these things are for learning about the past.

It's almost never good to put a monetary value on an antique in front of a crowd. Many people have the notion that antiques are worth huge sums of money, and some are. But, most antiques are pretty modest in price compared to the impression many get from Antiques Roadshow. If you tell your crowd that your dug Civil War Eagle Coat button is only monetarily worth about $6.55, many will be surprised at the low "value" but many more won't have an interest in holding it because it's no longer special in their eyes. Putting a monetary value on these things breaks the connection with the past that each individual can make when touching and passing them around.  

Has anyone else noticed this at events and in museums? If someone asks you about the "value" of something, what do you say?

July 21, 2012

World War II Weekend at Joanna Furnace

This weekend is a WWII event at Joanna Furnace in PA.  I don’t typically go to WWII events but this one promises to be a good weekend.

WWII Reenactor
Joanna at night.

Joanna Furnace is a beautiful iron furnace that was established in 1792 and shut its doors in 1901. This weekend it will be transformed into the 1940s, complete with 150 reenactors representing a variety of units and impressions. Highlights include live music, a fashion show, 2 dozen military vehicles and fascinating guest speakers counting WWII veterans and a concentration camp survivor. It will be a fun event for those that can make it out.

The event is tomorrow (7/21/12) from 7am-10pa  and Sunday (7/22/12) from 7am-3pm. For more information visit the Hay Creek Vally Historical Association Website.

July 16, 2012

New, Free Civil War Reenactor Magazine!: The Civil War Citizens & Soldiers Digest

How exciting! There's a new magazine for Civil War reenactors. It's been disheartening to see a few of the hobby's publications canceled, such as the Civil Was Historian Magazine.

You can read the first issue of The Civil War Citizens & Soldiers Digest by clicking the widget below:

Or by visiting their website at http://www.citizenssoldiersdigest.com/ . Head on over there and check out their magazine! This months publication includes articles about authentic reproductions and period dancing.

July 13, 2012

"Housekeeping Ain't No Joke"

"Housekeeping ain't no joke" - Hannah from Little Women.

My room is a mess! I can never think straight when my room is so disorganized. There are piles and piles of papers, unfinished projects multiplying like coat hangers and my father is constantly reminding me that my floor has a weight limit in regards to my rather robust book collection. A few times a year I have to have a full purge. The more things I have, the less productive I am. I've always been that way and somehow it still all piles up and collects.

It's no secret that most people acquire more stuff than we can actually enjoy. I know many book lovers who openly admit that they buy more books than they can possibly ever read. Recently, I've been trying to cut down on the books that I have that remain unread. I've put them together on the shelf and have been slowly chipping away at them. I've been much more discretionary on which books are really useful to me right now and been much more honest about how many books I really have room for.

Another big problem spot for me is the clutter caused by unfinished projects. For some reason I always have a long list of projects that I started but quickly lost interest in as time passed. For instance there were dresses I started that I thought I would just love to have but found as time passed, I just wasn't as interested in finishing  or wearing them. I'm still coming to terms with "scraping" projects. I make sure I save parts of the projects that are costly and that I am likely to use in the future and the rest is offered up for the taking.

I no longer feel very bad about this. The materials are normally perfect for someone else's current project and it frees me up for new endeavors. My productivity is still good. I attempt about 20 projects and finish 10. My sister is the exact opposite and works meticulously on one project all year. She makes pretty awesome things out of the pieces of my half-finished projects. I'm really lucky to know a lot of talented people who can make beautiful things out of scraps. I find that if I ever did want to come back to one of these projects, I probably would scrap them anyways as my skills, techniques and ideas would probably have improved. So it's win-win.   

Off to finish cleaning!

July 10, 2012

Photography and Reenactments

Photography at reenactments has been a hot topic. Is it really right for reenactors to take photos? In our age everyone wants a photo of what they are doing to share with their friends online. 

The minute I can't take photos at reenactments is the minute I pack up and pursue my copious other hobbies. Yes, that's harsh. Hardcores will say sayorara quicker than they can pull a Boxbury Russet out of their haversacks and farbs will be left wondering what the big deal is.

I fully understand the "If they didn't have it, don't use it mentality." I agree to it on almost all accounts. This is one where I feel as 21st century people we deserve to have a little 21st century luxury. Many people feel that reenactors taking photographs are one of the most irksome things in reenacting because it ruins the setting we've created. I agree, but I also think it's a necessary evil. Photos from an event not only document our fun times but also get people interested in what we do.

Most people will argue that you can just get photos from friends or have spectators email you copies. This is fine if you just want to show them to your friends. It is not fine if I want to post them online and it is not fine for people who will be using them for webpages, advertising, and publications. Which is what almost every person does these days.

There's no good solution. If you don't like cameras in camp, the best thing to do is set an example and not bring one yourself. Try doing things the period way: sketch a picture or write a very descriptive letter to your friends and family at home.   If getting some photos truly affects how much you can enjoy a reenactment, by all means, take a few shots.       

Tips for Reenactors:

-Try to take photos at off hours when you know spectators will not be in camp (early in the morning or at night.) This is the hardest for me because if I make a particularly awesome lunch I always want to snap a photo. Which brings me to the next tip.

-Always look around. If you are alone snap a photo quickly and put the camera back in your tent. 

- Settle with a few photos and don't be upset when you don't get those action battle shots. I think you can capture a day in 5 shots or less. Save the rest for after hours. If you feel that you absolutely want battle shots, consider dressing like a spectator for an hour or two. 

-Try to use the smallest, unobtrusive camera as possible. Bring the dslr out at night. Take your photo and be done with it. Don't keep it out and don't play with it. Don't show your photos to other until night or when you get home.

-Some people experiment with hidden cameras. This may get easier as cameras get smaller. Izzy at Confessions of a Reenactor has a nice set-up but it involves some acting as modern cameras don't require immediate post processing.

Reenacting photos are really my favorites. If I couldn't take them reenactments really wouldn't be much fun for me. I love sharing my weekends and photos really help. I know my view on this is an unpopular one but I really think having photos adds to the hobby. It's also a way to see how the hobby changes. Remember those farb photos from the 70s and 80s? I'd also prefer this stuff documented by us, not people who don't know what they are photographing or people from that new school of "journalism" who like to take part in events, Halloween costumes and all.

I do have to thank National Geographic for those lovely photos of reenactors standing next to portable toilets and in parking lots. I'm glad the general public "knows" what reenacting is about now.

July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July: Questions for my Readers

This in an invitation for all of my readers to get to know each other. If you have a blog or website, you can post the answers there and leave a link in my comments or if you don't you can just post your answers in the comments.


1. Websites, blogs and social media can skew our lives and make us look hyper-focused on one aspect of your life. What are some interests/hobbies/ect. that you have that you think your readers/friends might not know about?

2. What have blogs/the internet introduced you to that you never knew about before?

3. What are your top 10 most visited websites?

4. What is your favorite/most bizarre/interesting fact about something in history?

5. If you could wake up tomorrow and have acquired a new skill in your sleep, what would it be and why?

6. If you could spend 1 year in a different time period, which would you choose and why?

7. What are your internet pet-peeves?

8.  What is your newest hobby/interest? Tell us a little about it.

9. If you could invite 3 deceased people to dinner who would it be and what would you talk to them about?

10. If you had to play a character in a movie, who would you play and why?

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