Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The 21st Michigan Winter 2014 Civilian Meeting

My wife, Patty,
wearing her new paletot
Yes, it's that time of year again - it's time for the annual civilian meeting for the members of the 21st Michigan. I normally have one civilian meeting held in late winter or early spring, and every-so-often I might hold one in the fall.
This year the plan is to have two meetings for our civilians, and the first one was held in this very snowy month of February.
The point of the meetings are three-fold:
1) A chance to wear our period clothing in the winter time when nothing (or very little) else is going on in the living history world, at least in this cold north country.

2) Learning to improve our personal experience in our time-travel endeavors as well as learning how to improve our presentations for the public.

3) To keep the momentum going that had taken hold in December and to build on that momentum.

There is a fourth reason, by the way: because it's a great excuse to see friends you haven't seen in a while.
The subject matter wasn't new to my meetings: immersion and bringing the past to life has been the topic of discussion for a number of years now, and I'm finding that the more we teach and learn, the better we become.
And yet we still have a long way to go.
But what a journey!
I'm not going to get into the whats and wherefores of immersion, for I wrote about that HERE. I would just like to reiterate that learning of the time period you pertain to be in during a reenactment is every bit as important as the accuracy of your clothing. For what good is perfect-to-a-"T" period clothing if your historical knowledge is no better than the typical Hollywood historian or worse?
We, as living historians, need to spend more time involved in social history research. That really is the only way to teach the whole story as well as to have one feel like they have traveled through time. In fact, since there is so much more to learn about in the everyday life of the mid-19th century, I will venture to say that we need to make the study of social history a top priority.
This is one of the things that I imparted on our membership, and they responded very enthusiastically, pulling together to come up with numerous ways to improve our future past endeavors for this coming season.
And, no, not all of our events will be immersion.
So I'd like to share a few of the meeting photographs with you.
I hope you enjoy them.

Here are the 21st Michigan members that attended the meeting. Well, all but one (she had to leave early). Period dress meetings really are a lot more fun than the plain modern dress meetings, especially for those who had done some sewing or received period gifts for Christmas so they can show them off (such as my wife and her paletot!).

Kristen poses pensively.
Our own Dave Tennies portrays Michigan Senator Jacob Howard in many of our reenactments. Although he's been reenacting for around 15 years, he experienced immersion for the first time in December of 2013 and loved it. He's looking forward to doing more this coming year.

Dave tells of his experiences in the world of living history. Our meetings are not one person speaks and all others listen. We encourage everyone to participate and share their knowledge and experiences.

No matter how recent or how long one's been in this hobby, there are always new things to learn from others. It's interesting to hear the observances and ideas from numerous perspectives. Put them all in one big pot, stir gently, and see what comes out.

The young lady at the forefront here has been a reenactor her entire life. She has seen changes like very few others have and still attends nearly every local event (and even a national here and there). Yes, she still is very passionate about this hobby.

Winter wear...sans one!
Upon seeing how many of our members arrived in their period outdoor winter wear, I thought it would be neat to take a photograph of all of us in the winter weather. It struck me that this is something we don't see very often. The picture turned out, literally, pretty cool. Just ask Larissa, 2nd from right.
Yes, that's nearly two feet of snow in front of us.

After the meeting, a few members remained on for a bit - sort of like an afterglow. It was not even planned that way; just a couple folks that stayed after the meeting had ended, and we had a fine visit in the midst of a period setting...

...not 'full' immersion, mind you. But the atmosphere of an oil lamp and candle lit room filled with antique furniture can really set a mood, especially if there are a few folks wearing period clothing.

I was happy that Kristen was willing to pose for me in this manner during the afterglow.

And there you have it. It was quite an enjoyable day for all who attended.
I plan to have another period-dress civilian meeting in the near future - definitely before the actual season begins in the later spring, probably sometime in March. When that happens, I hope to do an actual immersion workshop to where we can actively work on how to get into the mindset of 'being there.'.

Yeah...I must say, I do appreciate the civilian members of the 21st Michigan (and a few from other local units as well) and their want to raise the living history bar higher each year. For without them...well...you know...

Remember the momentum I spoke of at the top of this article? These next couple of photos will show you exactly what I mean of immersion in action:

Here is a photo that was taken in December of 2013 while we were doing one of the finest immersion experiences that we have ever had the pleasure of participating in - Christmas at the Fort. Nothing is staged here: we were an 1863 family eating our Christmas Eve dinner, domestic servants at our beck and call. We had conversations that I am certain could have taken place during that time, including, among other subjects, reminisces of our lives before oil lamps when, as children, we helped to dip tallow candles.

Here is another photo that was taken at the same event as the picture directly above. Once again, this unposed picture shows 19th century life during our 1863 Christmas Eve celebration while we were in the parlor and I was reading aloud from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Just as the above photo, it did not matter whether there were visitors to see or hear this or not: as far as we were concerned, it was only us, and because we continued this immersion non-stop, I feel we actually were back 'there' in 1863.
Doing living history/immersion at Christmas at the Fort is truly one of our reenacting year's highlights. If you are interested in this particular event please click HERE to read more about how we brought days of Christmas past to life through immersion.

Well, my friends, until next time - God Be With You and I hope to see you in days of future past.

~ ~ ~ 
Hey! Did you know I had a table of contents for Passion for the Past? Yup - sure do! Just click HERE to check it out!



troutbirder said...

Most interesting. We have begun to follow several reenactments here in Minnesota both for the Civil and Dakota war...

Rose Connolly said...

Tell Kristen I have a dress like hers.



Texas Mom said...

Wow! I am so enjoying browsing your blog. :)