Friday, January 05, 2007

Interesting Reenacting Groups and Periods, Pt 1

As an evolution for Interesting Groups on the Reenacting Fringe, I'm going to look at the major periods of history that are reenacted. So, in essence, I'm looking inward from the fringe to the meat and potatoes of the reenacting world. Occasionally though, I'll feature a fringe group that doesn't run along the normal boundaries for reenactors within their period.

So to start off, I'll look at the Early Settlements of the 16th Century...

Period: English, Spanish, Dutch Settlements in North America in 16th and 17th Centuries

I've found that this is a very widely portrayed time period, especially by state parks. I'll start off with one of the best known sites, Jamestown in Virginia. The Jamestown Settlement is celebrating 400 years, and is a great place to visit. Since the park also addresses the Battle of Yorktown, I'll keep the post in the context of the 17th century only. Historically, Jamestown was founded in 1607, had lots of hardship, became a smallish, if not important hub of the new colonies during that time, then slowly petered out once Williamsburg rose to prominence.

The part that I didn't see were the extensive living history programs that play here. But I did get to see the park's major attractions, the ships and the museum. The living history here seems to be very hands-on for sight-seers, but not dumbed-down or caricaturized in order to 'enhance' the learning experience. The only reenacting rub with Jamestown is that they don't seem attract an amateur reenacting interest.

Plimoth Plantation is another reenacted English colony. Founded in 1620, the recreated Plimoth strives to bust some of the myths and misconceptions around the pilgrims, Thanksgiving and the natives of the area. This place gives you the real dirt on the pilgrims and how they actually looked and lived. There are several components to the site including an English village, a native American village, and the Mayflower II. I'm impressed with the site alone, which is a fine resource of information. The reenacted site seems to be the place to visit, not only for the reenactors, but for the period livestock and plants that the curators take the care in raising on site. Like Jamestown, the reenactors there are professionals, and the site doesn't seem to attract an amateur reenacting interest.

Going south to Florida brings you into Spanish territory and DeSoto National Memorial. Here is Camp Uzita, a model camp set in 1539 during DeSoto's time in the New World. The site describes the program:

The Living History interpreters provide formal and informal presentations, including demonstrations of the crossbow and firing the arquebus in a unique 16th century setting from mid-December to early April.

Like Jamestown and Plimoth, this one is manned by the pros, this time National Service Park Rangers. The camp's setup look pretty interesting. So if you're in the great state of FL, and are in the Tampa Bay area, this living history seems to be worth your time.

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