Friday, July 30, 2010

More Than a Few Years Ago.













a few of my friends got the bright idea of doing a book on a very-overlooked historical topic, the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg. Thousands of books had been written on the campaign and the battles, but little had been done about the retreat. It was always an area of great interest they had, and they wanted to learn more about it. In their quest to learn, they also had the desire to educate. They would document what they would learn so that others could have the same experience. years, and 900 cited-references later, the book came out. It was well-worththe wait. Depending on when you ask one of them, they may even tell you it was worth the tremendous time, effort, and frustration spent!

I think that mentality is what drives every historian. You know so much that you realize the amount of information that can still be learned. In your adventure to learn more, you want to teach others. Without historians, authors, teachers, educators, etc., where would we be?

I truly feel that living historians/military reenactors share the same desire. We want to acquire uniforms and equipment, we want to learn tactics, we want to find out the sentiment of the times we are portraying, and we are like great sponges, soaking up any and all knowledge we can. As we absorb this vast amount of knowledge, we can't help but want to share what we learn with others.

That is what being a living historian is all about. You teach history by in a small way becoming much like those you represent. You can tell a classroom full of students that the Civil War uniform was uncomfortably hot, you can tell them that an M-1 Garand rifle made a distinct ping when the empty clip ejected, and you can tell them that the food was bland and often not good. They can say they get it, remember a small bit of it, and move on. That is a basic education.

Add a living historian to the mix, and the students can feel the heaviness of the uniform, and maybe even try it on. The can hear the empty clip eject from the Garand. They can see and possibly taste the rations, etc. Students can learn more in one 40 minute living history program than they can in a semester of classroom education. The in-person,, hands-on experience, the idea that they physically touched a piece of history can outlast all the book-learning experience ever obtained.

I think this is why we do it. I know it is why I do it! It is why I want to read more books, attend more events, buy more gear, and talk with other reenactors. Individually, we can inform. Together, we can teach not only the event attendees, but each other. Everyone has different ideas, sees things differently and draws different conclusions to the same occurrences. By telling each other what we know and see, we can all experience different insight.

In my case, my desire to learn is what fuels my desire to teach. Each time I learn a new fact or get a new piece, I want to show or tell others. It's not bragging, not saying I am better than they are, and not being a snob. It truly is sharing! Sharing in a way that the past is preserved. Sharing in a way that memories are kept alive. Sharing so that the horrible events of the past can be remembered so that they never are repeated.

I had a spectator last weekend ask my a two-part question: Why do we collect all the stuff we do? and Why do we feel the need to haul it out, set it up, and show it off?He thought it would be too expensive and too much trouble.

My answer was that,when you see car collectors or show car owners, they have no problem spending money on their cars. When completed, they haul their cars out and line them up so that they can show them off. I said that I am not a car show person. I'm a militaria collector. I acquire gear, and stockpile it in my basement. I enjoy having it, seeing it, and finding out more about it. I also enjoy taking it out, setting it up, showing it off, and telling people about it. My collection is my show car, and a living history event is my car show. He said he never thought of it that we, but it made sense. I hit an are to which he could relate, and he left entertained and educated. That is what it is all about.

In the last post, I challenged living historians and reenactors to comment on why they do it and what they want to accomplish? That challenge stays. I also challenge those who are not living historians, but who attend living histories and reenactments, to tell why they go, what they learn, and what they'd like to see?

Comment,please. If they're on topic, I'll post them no matter the content!
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