Monday, April 30, 2012

FPIPN 2012

I have a ton to write about!
I’ve got to catch up this journal, because I have a feeling this summer is going to be full of Living History-type happenings. In fact, every weekend for the past month has been full of LH and that is not going to slow down any time soon. So here goes.

Almost a month ago now Stephen and I presented at a conference for Living History peeps called by everyone the “FPIPN (pronounced pippin.) Retreat”

The Basics:
- FPIPN stands for First Person Interpreters Professional Network.
- FPIPN is a sub-group of ALHFAM (Association of Living History, Farm and Agriculture Museums) specifically for museum folks who do this crazy thing we do.
- The conference was in Dover, Delaware, hosted by their lovely state history people with sessions held in amazing local historical buildings and museums.
- Attendees came from all over the US, but mostly from the east coast, most were professionals working at museums, everyone was incredibly friendly.
- The sessions were partly educational (teaching people how we do what we do) and partly study based (folks who are in post grad programs presenting papers.)
- This was the second retreat that Stephen and I had attended, the first being two years ago in Mystic, CT (listen to our podcast about that retreat.)

Stephen and I were presenting on two topics: “presenting religion from the first person perspective” and “Endowments, or bringing your audience into the story”. Since Stephen was starting a new job and I was starting a temp job we did not have a lot of time to prepare. But we’ve been presenting stuff like this at Reenactorfest and through the podcast for years, so we know how to put together an outline, how to share focus, and how to talk on just about any topic to fill a half-hour time slot. We even put together some simple power-point slides of our outline to keep us on topic and on schedule. People asked good questions and we got great feedback, so I think our presentations were a success.

We also did a really quick five-minute presentation of Gustav and Hanne Reischach. It was really bizarre, because we were not really in character, it was more like putting on the clothing and pretending to be in character. Stephen did Gustav’s talk to new recruits, and I (as Hanne) interrupted him to tell the women in the audience what their roles will be. It was bizarre because in a normal situation, Gustav and Hanne hardly ever interact during the day, they have different spheres of influence. Hanne would also never interrupt Gustav. But the audience laughed, and I hope they learned something. We got a lovely card from the organizer thanking us for all our participation.

Some of the most memorable parts of the weekend were the amazing buildings that we got to hang out in all weekend. Delaware really has a great state history organization and Dover is an incredibly beautiful town. Stephen and I both now want to go back. Getting to hang out with people who do what we do, love what we love, and share so many experiences is so rare for me and is always a wonderful experience. We had dinner in a hangar on Dover Airforce Base that has is now a museum. It was strange being dressed in 16th Century and looking at all those planes, but it was also really fun to play in the air control tower, and to take photos of George Washington on Airforce One.

I believe in Fate, and I was receiving some pretty strong signals while at the FPIPN retreat. Two of the people we hung out with had just completed Master’s degrees, one had done an online program. Two attendees came from the New York Tenement museum. I chatted with them a little at the end and told them that I was jealous that they got to portray Jewish history, which is something I’d always wanted to do. They said that I should come to work at the Tenement Museum, to which I replied that I lived in New Hampshire. Both then spoke up and said two things: Strawbery Banke Museum and Mrs. Shapiro. I used to work at SBM, and in fact have written about Mrs. Shapiro on this very blog.

On the way down to the retreat Stephen and I were both wondering if all the preparations, stress and travel would be worth it for this one weekend. On the way home I definitely felt it was well worth it.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Duct Tape and Toilet Paper

Over the past few years the items I bring with me to historical events have gotten more and more period appropriate. I'm leaving more and more of my modern things behind. Still, there are a few items I have not weaned myself from, a few I would not want to, and a few suggestions by my friends that I think are quite good.

Here is the list of things I have not figured out how to do without:
Prescription Meds - definitely not going to stop taking those. In my case this includes contact lenses.
1st aid kit - we keep a trauma kit around so we will hopefully never have to use it. We also have a medieval surgery kit and plenty of herbal remedies, but I'm going to stick to modern stuff for now.
Tissues - Yes I use cloth napkins and handkerchiefs in camp, but at night Stephen and I combined use about a third of a box of tissues, I'd rather not wake up surrounded by used handkerchiefs.
Wallet - we are in a modern age, so I do keep an ID and some cash with my cell phone in a nifty little case that resembles an old book.
Business cards, Brochures - Since most of what we do is educate the public, and because we are always looking for new recruits, we always have our contact info close to hand.
Trash bags - we have not yet been able to convince an event site to let us dig a trash pit.
Fire extinguisher - we'd rather keep a bucket of water and one of sand close at hand and leave the extinguisher at home, but then it would be hard to get insurance coverage.
Toilet paper - Since moss and straw are hard on modern plumbing, but outdoor events are never guaranteed to have enough tp, I always have a back-up supply.
Squire kit - when I was caring for armored knights who spent their time beating each other I had a quick kit to solve almost any problem. It consisted of duct tape, zip ties and a Leatherman or Gerber brand multi-tool. That kit still comes with me today.

When I asked other folks for their list of modern items they can not do without, here is what I got:
Donna always brings gum with her and Cole is never without a few granola bars.
Elizabeth can't go without her chopstick.
Nora always has her leatherman and bug spray. I'd add sunscreen to that list.
Chole's daughter needs her iPod to sleep in camp and Stephanie needs a book and flashlight for her bed-time.
Denise usually has a watch hidden on her because so many events are time sensitive, even if historically they would not have been quite so strict.
Dan reminds us not to forget our car keys, and that a camera can not be beat.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Weekend Find

This past weekend I went to celebrate Passover with my family, so we headed down to Plymouth, Mass. We were a little early so we stopped at Mayflower Brewing for Dad, then on the way out we spent some time at a big antique store right downtown. We got some nice little turned boxes for me, some augers and a WWII dressing kit for Stephen, and the prize: a beautiful 1930s black derby hat in the original hat box.

And it fits me!

Well actually, it fit after I took the newspaper out of the band that had been placed in there on May 9th, 1930.

What a marvelous find! Now I desperately need someplace to wear my lovely new hat!

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

future plans

I'm a very superstitious person. Not like the number 13 or broken mirrors or anything, I just don't like to draw attention to my successes for fear they will get sabotaged by fate. I especially hate to mention future plans out loud for fear they will not come true. Warding off the evil eye, or really any divine or other-worldly attention has always seemed like a really good idea. That is why I mostly write on this blog about projects, events, etc. once they are over and could not be changed by unwanted attention. This has the advantage that I don't have to write about my failures. But then again what if you, my readers, could help me achieve my dreams, with your positive thoughts or possibly your connections?

Back in 2005 I gave up the idea of making my living doing something related to history, and decided history would just be a hobby for a while. That has been fun, I've grown and learned, but I'm pretty ready to put history on the front page again. I'm rather at an in-between place in my life right now. There are a million different directions I could head, and a million I would like to, but I've also got a recent failure making me reluctant to jump feet first into something big in case it is more than I can handle.

No matter what the economists say, this recession is not over for non-profits, and definitely not for non-profits that are not direct-service related like historical sites. While I am looking for museum jobs, or otherwise history-related jobs, I can't hold my breath hoping I'll snag the perfect opening. Stephen and I have started businesses and projects that we had hoped would turn into careers, but none of them have worked out quite that way. What about going back to school? There are tons of master's degrees out there for people like me. Educators interested in history are pretty much expected to have master's degrees. But would it benefit me to spend gobs of money for three years, and then be back out looking for my career again?

Maybe I should stay on the corporate path until Stephen and I can afford our farm, and then we'll invite all the LH folks we can find to join us, and we'll create our own history.

Any advice? Anyone know who we can pitch a reality TV show to?

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

American Textile Museum

In March I spent some time volunteering a few days a week at the American Textile History Museum (which is not the Boott Mill, or the New England Quilt Museum) I was working in their fund raising database because they needed some clean-up done and I wanted experience working with Raiser’s Edge. I was only at it for about a month when I got a full time temp job, but my time there was well worth it.

I got to explore a very cool museum. Textiles play a huge part in our lives, and a massive role in our history. I got the chance to chill out in the exhibits after working for a couple of hours and got to study the dresses, the sample books, and all the cool items on display. I got to go behind the scenes and get a tour of the research library, and see some brand new dresses just acquired (19teens are all the rage!)

I also got to help out an institution that I enjoy. They’ve been through some rough times, some mismanagement and the recession. They are much smaller than during the boom years, and could use all the help they can get. I can not contribute money, especially when I am not making any, but my time was valuable to them.

I almost hope that I will get the chance to go back and help them out some more, maybe if I win the lottery...

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