Renaissance fairs, Civil War, Revolutionary war, 18th century products and Masters of Craft: artisans in 21st. Living history and a great many return to craft works!
My wife is the owner of secret garden designs. She loves crafting and sewing. She loves to work on period pieces. We both love finding out about what life was like in the past. We watched the entire Timeteam series from the BBC. We both watched the Farming Series from BBC. I enjoy the works that Genesee Country Museum, the Buffalo Niagara Historic Village, and the Old Bethpage Village on Long Island. My wife grew up next to Museum Village in Orange County NY. Her brother served as a Civil War Re-enactor. one of my favorite social studies teachers in Junior High was a Civil war Re-enactor. A colleague of mine and a fellow Alpha Phi Omega member participate in Civil War Re-enactment. There is a wide number of suppliers for re-enactment, including Townsend, Old Suttler’s John, and Pearsons.
So why do people re-enact? For some, its the process of studying archaeology and history by doing it through the process of Experimental archaeology, a recognized field of study which allows scholars to glean an understanding into how tools were used, how structures were built, and how the daily lives of people came to be. Many times, the people involved in experimental archaeology provide valuable insight into how theory became applied practice. Other members of the community enjoy the fellowship of the community. They find the events and the comrades they make to be supportive, welcoming, and unique environment to pursue a passion.
There are website, books, and a wide variety of youtube videos devoted to the time periods and materials for reenactment. If you want to learn how to cook from the Civil War era there are recipes and cooking demos. Cook books abound. Different crafters make reproduction tools and equipment that would be used in the time period. We all know food is a great attraction for people. From eating hardtack and salt pork, to cakes and fry breads and roasts common to the era, a veritable feast can be consumed on a reenactment event weekend. One of my dear friends, Amelia is involved with the SCA. Her mundane existence as a technology director at a school support system and her weekend persona are amazing in their existence. She is a thrown weapons master, and arts and crafts guru, and yet runs the website! It allows her enjoyment, fellowship, and acquisition in knowledge of crafting skills which are dying. I would recommend each person look at the following books for understanding about re-enactors and craft skills:
Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy
Reliving the Civil War
A Compendium of Common Knowledge, 1558-1603: Elizabethan Commonplaces for Writers, Actors & Re-enactors
The Constructed Past: Experimental Archaeology, Education and the Public (One World Archaeology)
Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
Popular media also discusses reenactors as well. Almost all of the series are BBC or CBC based television programming. Major news magazines like Salon and The Atlantic have run stories on reenactors, or living histories. Parks and Recreation had an historical reenactor as part of their series. NCIS used a re-enactor death to create a story line. Bones has used historical re enactors to advance the crime fighting adventures of Dr. Brennan and Agent Booth.
One of my friends from Western New York collaborates in a War of 1812 re enactment with Canadian units. this activity inspired him to study history at college. He also became part of a Re enactment club that started a Venturing Scout program on living history.
For students and adults, the living history world is a no opportunity to wonder about what was. Our museums and historical societies do wonderful events and activities and fairs that bring history alive. While not always 100% accurate, it does get the ball rolling. Just like Genealogists and history written for the masses are not always accepted, historians and social studies teachers should look for common allies in our fight to be relevant and expose more students to the wonders of the past and the unique and gripping stories. Engagement =interest= relevance.