I love “living history” museums—those amazing places where an attempt is made to re-create how life was lived in a specific time or place. In the US, Colonial Williamsburg is the grand-daddy of them all...but I’m lucky enough to live close to several others, and was even luckier last week to visit one of them with my dear friend and partner in blogging crime, Regina!
Living as we do on opposite sides of the country, any time spent together is precious— but getting to geek out at history together is even more awesome. And geek out we did, at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where reenactors strive to show how life was lived in the colony founded by the Pilgrims in 1620. (Check out their very informative website at www.plimoth.org)
When I say reenactors, I mean reenactors—the people dressed in early seventeenth century garb that you see in the houses cooking or repairing roofs or tending their gardens are in the personae of actual Plimoth inhabitants. They learn their person’s actual history down to the accent they probably spoke with, and then “become” that person...and don’t ever break character. It’s pretty cool to chat with them (though of course some people try to bait them out of their roles--but what fun is that?)
- That the bundles of reeds that make up the thatching on thatched roofs are actually sewn to the rafters with big stitches—how cool is that? You just see how the thatch is sewn on in courses at my photo above.
- That not only jugs and bowls and plates were made from earthenware, but things like braziers to hold a small quantity of coals to cook over were as well—and worked quite well.
- That bayberry candles—candles made from the small, waxy berries of the bayberry shrub that grows copiously in coastal New England—were a later invention; the inhabitants of Plymouth made their candles from tallow and beeswax (bees were brought over not long after the first settlement.)