Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's in the Details! - Documenting the Uniforms of the 29th Foot

The 29th Regiment of Foot, infamous for their part in the Boston Massacre, has been recreated for this annual event!  Tonight (2/29) at 6:30 at the Old State House they will be doing a presentation that outlines the documentation for the uniforms they have reproduced for this year's Boston Massacre reenactment.  So don't let the threat of a little snow stop you.  Jump on the T and join us at the Old State House for what should be a very informative and fun presentation.

There are those who wonder, why go through the trouble of doing painstaking research to document every little detail of a British uniform, then reproduce several of them with very expensive but amazingly accurate materials, for an event that only happens once a year.  Wouldn't any redcoat uniform work?  The public doesn't know the difference. Because in the long run, this is about teaching the public about an important event in our history, that has lessons that are still relevant today.  And we owe the public accuracy and to portray the story in a way that reflects the latest research.  These uniforms are a vital interpretive tool. Sure, the public doesn't know what a 29th Foot uniform looks like; but they will in a couple weeks!  Is it a lot of work? Expensive? A little nuts?  Yes, all of the above, but in end, we are teachers, whether we like it or not.  And our students deserve the best we can offer them.

Oh and by the way -- the research part is a whole lot of fun!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Diaries - Talking about the Weather

Hartwell Tavern (photo from
Those who attended this past Sunday's Hive, heard excerpts from diaries written by a diverse collection of New Englanders.  Not only were their speech patterns different from each other, the types of things they chose to write about were different, as was how they wrote it.  Each made observations about their world and what was important to them. The common element, and it also remains true today, was that they spoke about the weather.

For Anna Winslow and her rather pampered life, it dictated what cloak and bonnet she'd select and/or if it was too cold or snowy to attend school. In Abner Sanger's world, what it was like outside pretty much dictated his activities for the day. And to Martha Ballard, much like Mr. Sanger, the severity of the elements determined if she could do her job.  In Mrs. Ballard's case, it was reach a a patient in time to aid in the delivery of their baby.

A look at our Facebook pages tells much the same story -- it's always appropriate to talk about the weather. So next time you don your 18th century kit, and you don't know what to say to  a visitor - mention the weather, knowing that it was just as important to the people we are portraying as it is today.

Some additional books based on the diaries of 18th century New Englanders for your reading list...

Earthbound and Heavenbent - Elizabeth Porter Phelps and Life at Forty Acres (1747-1817) by Elizabeth Pendergast Carlisle, Scribner 2004

The Way of Duty: A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America, Joy Day Buel and Richard Buel, Jr.  W.W. Norton  & Company 1995

The Years of the Life of Samuel Lane 1718-1806 - A New Hampshire Man and His World by Jerald E. Brown, University Press of New England 2000