Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: Past into Present

Is there a book for what I do? For creating, improving, and learning about first-person historical characters? Yes, there is one: Past into Present: Effective Techniques for First-Person Historical Interpretation by Stacy F. Roth. Published in 1998, Roth undertakes to record techniques of first person interpretation as practiced at a number of museums around the US. She looks specifically at interactive interpretation: those where the LH interpreter has conversations with the visitor as opposed to museum theatre, where there is a more set script, and the visitor is more an audience than a participant. In the book, Roth covers the basics like: establishing a vocabulary, the places where first person interpretation is practiced, pros and cons from a practitioner and audience perspective. She goes in depth on how different people at different sites create their interpretations, connect with the public, and deal with different types of audiences.

The book reads less like a how-to and more like an academic dissertation, so it can be difficult to dig pertinent info out of wordy paragraphs for those who are looking for an intorduction. But for those of us of a studious mindset there is plenty to sink your teeth into. The appendixes contain both a glossary of terms, which is very necessary in this field, and a list of “character development” topics that can spur on a beginner, or add depth to an established character.

Roth was not the first person to write about Living History, that distinction goes to Jay Anderson. And there have been books published since, but Roth has not been surpassed, Past into Present is the place to start, and is where we need to return in order to up our art.


1 comment:

  1. I have Past into Present as well as a couple of the Jay Anderson books and both compliment each other very well. Your description of Roth's book as more a dissertation is spot on correct, while, to me, Anderson's is more though provoking, so they can go hand-in-hand together.
    I recommend both to those serious about doing 1st person/immersion.