Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Is the Magic "period" moment really all that important?

Since we just did a podcast on making evaluations I've been evaluating my own involvement in Living History. There are so many things that I hope to get out of any LH venture I undertake. Here are the 4 main ones I’ve come up with:
1. I want to learn,
2. I want to teach others,
3. I want to have meaningful social interactions (have fun with my friends),
4. I want to experience something real.
I am finding that though many folks may have similar entries on their lists, most do not list them in the order I have, nor do most people include all of those entries.

I’m reading a little book called “Seize the Day” and its purpose is to help Civil War reenactors achieve more moments when the reenactment “feels real.” Some people call these magic moments, or even a period-gasm. This is one of the main reasons why people get involved in Living History. It is the topic of an entire book (even if it is a little book.) The most interesting thing about reading this book at the time as I am making my own evaluations, and just after visiting a couple LH events as a member of the public (podcasted here) is that teaching others and expiring something “real” are often in direct conflict.

Let’s face it, having folks dresses in jeans and t-shirts, taking our pictures with digital cameras (or their phones) and asking us what year it is (or more intelligent questions) does ruin the period atmosphere. As close as we get in our surroundings and ourselves, as long as sneakered individuals expecting interaction are in the picture the picture is never going to be all that accurate. But I love the chance to interact with and educate the public! I know this make me very different from most reenactors, or at least most reenactors on Living History Worldwide click here for a summary. But I really do value the times I interact with others who might have some level of interest in history, and to widen a few world views. And no, I have no desire to teach the federally decided curriculum to a very small age demographic; I want to reach anyone who wants to learn, not just in the usual prescribed ways.

What if the public are just spectators?
I’ve seen this done in battle scenarios, where the public stays on the outside and the historical folks on the other. Some groups prefer to put up a rope line to keep members of the public a bit separate. But they’re still there. They are not hiding behind an invisible barrier, and to ignore them completely seems fairly rude to me if you are not doing a theatrical performance.

So how important is achieving those period moments?
Since it seems like on my list numbers 2 and 4 are fairly incompatible, does that mean I have to drop one or the other? I think not. Not every day, activity or event is going to fulfill all my wants (or even my needs) but going forward I’m going to try to evaluate my LH endeavors based on the 4 criteria and make sure I have a balance. Some events are geared mostly towards educating others, but I might learn something, or at least have some fun social interactions. And I might just be more inclined to put some events in my schedule that are not about educating the public, and are more about those magic “period” or “real” moments, as opposed to the magic teaching moments, the magic learning moments or the magic bonding moments shared with friends.

Since we’re talking about LH endeavors, there is one more kind I need to point out when talking about evaluations, and those are the endeavors we undertake for other people. Being kind, sharing, helping our friends and family are all very important. If I attend an event for the benefit of someone else and don’t actually achieve any of my goals for LH endeavors, it does not mean it was an unsuccessful event, just as long as someone got something out if it, then I’m ok with that too.


  1. Excellent post, thank you.
    Keith aka Le Loup.

    Your link posted on my blog.

  2. I know for myself, I've gone through phases of what my re-enacting goals where.

    Initially, I was eager to teach the public and I even wanted to develop a lesson plan for schools. But with so few suitable venues and since NYS school curriculum doesn't cover the early Celts, there was no good way to realize this. Currently, my goals are divided between looking for the "magic moment" and really diving in and doing some hard core experimental archaeology/learning skills.

    Probably not surprisingly, part of this shift in my focus happened when our group had accessible land to hold private events on. Suddenly, the possibility of having a "magic moment" was far more possible simply because the "anachronistic" public wasn't present during immersion events.

    Out of curiosity does Das Geld Faehnlein hold private immersion events?

  3. Das Geld has talked about it for two years now. We even tried to hold one last fall, but we have not yet for the right place or time. Some day, though. Some day...