Two weekends ago I attended the New England Reenactor’s Fair and Swap Meet with Das Geld Fahnlein. We set up a table to hopefully recruit new members. Last weekend I attended the New England regional conference of the Association of Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums. I attended that one on my own, though the keynote speaker was from Strawbery Banke. I did not really have to explain my attendance to the folks at the swap meet, though most folks found it odd that a group depicting something other than American history would attend. At the ALHFAM meeting the opening question is always, “what institution do you work at?” I found it difficult to explain that I was not there in affiliation with a specific museum.
I’m sure if the other folks at the swap meet had the opportunity to attend the conference, they would have learned a lot and could have added a lot as well, but there is a massive gulf between the “professionals” and the “hobbyists” and I seem to be stuck in the middle.
Why was I reluctant to tell the folks at ALHFAM that I work at SBM? Well, technically since the museum is not open, I don’t work at the museum. Also, the museum does not provide me with a living wage. I make just enough to pay for my gas and food. It does not cover housing, health insurance, my kid, phone, anything else. At least Das Geld Fahnlein does not pretend to be something other an expense in the budget. I paid my own way into the conference, I was not there as a representative of SBM.
I had a lot of fun at both events. At the swap meet I met new people who also love dressing up and living history, got to spend time with some of my fellow guild members, and I got to purchase some round wooden containers for herbal medicine that I’ve been looking for for a very long time. I got to do some medieval cooking to prep and I got to feed my peeps, which I very much like to do. At the conference I learned how to butcher a turkey and make split-rail fence. I got to learn about 1870s knitting and 19th Century bee keeping, and hang out with a group of people who love dressing up and doing history.
Maybe it is just the yucky end-of-winter weather, but now I feel all ugh, and in-between-ish about my place in the world of living history. I’m not your usual reenactor because I don’t do Civil War or Revolutionary War, I’m not your typical Museum person because I don’t make my living by working full-time at a museum.
At the Saturday dinner that was part of the conference I sat down at a table that looked mostly empty so other folks could decide to join me, but I would not be crowding out anyone if I chose to sit at the wrong table (hello flashbacks to grade school.) There was only one other person sitting at the table when I sat down, so she and I chatted while everyone else straggled in. She has 4 part time jobs and is also struggling to make a life out of history (and textiles in her case.) I mentioned that one of the things that Stephen and I do is offer workshops to reenactors on any number of topics from historical portrayals, to research, taboo topics, and (our favorite) interacting with the public. She thought that was fascinating and mentioned “putting out her shingle” to offer the same workshops herself. Doh, I should not have mentioned it. We really don’t do enough of those to need any competition. Sigh.
I really hope winter is over soon.