‘Behind The Scenes’ Category

A Short Relation of a Day of Thanks in the New Plimoth Colony

November 25th, 2010 by admin

So, Thanksgiving. The single busiest day in the life of a Plimoth Plantation employee. For many, the holiday conjures up images of turkey dinners and pumpkin pie shared by the English settlers and their Native guests. Visitors to the site today may be surprised that neither the English nor the Wampanoag seem particularly inclined to get together and pig out. In fact, besides the crowds, little is changed in the museum’s daily routine. Without going into a long, involved explanation of why this is so (which we’ll be doing a great deal of in person in the village today), let’s just say that for the Pilgrims, a day of thanksgiving was a day of fasting and prayer, entirely different from the feast day embraced by modern American culture. In addition, it was not an occasion that they celebrated with any regularity, so if you bring up the subject of “Thanksgiving” or a “harvest celebration” the interpreters will react with surprise or ask if you have heard about such a day being planned.

Obviously, the interpreters who portray these seventeenth century villagers have twenty-first century customs, so most of us have plans of our own for Thanksgiving Day. The break room becomes a repository for all sorts of fantastic food, brought in buffet-style by the village staff for the enjoyment of our friends and co-workers. We obviously look forward to five o’ clock when the gates close and we can relax after a long and hectic day at the office. That being said, even those hours spent in the village are enjoyable, because what better place to spend Turkey Day then at the place where the modern conception of the holiday was born?

If anybody would like to learn about the true origins of the Thanksgiving holiday, then why not come down and visit us? If you prefer the relaxed atmosphere of your own home and comfortable couch, then perhaps you would enjoy watching “The Real Story of Thanksgiving,” filmed here at the Plant, starring our costumed interpreters, and airing on the History Channel tonight at 11:00 PM.

To all of you I wish a very happy Thanksgiving, and family and good friends to share it with.

Aaron Dougherty

Interpretation Apprentice

The Brewster House

July 28th, 2010 by admin

Construction in the English Village continues on it’s newest house, The Brewster House.

Here, our thatchers have put up a scaffold on which to stand while they apply the 2nd of 3 layers of thatch on house’s roof. We are using a combination of reed, hay, and cattail.

Here is a detail of the layering of our thatch. The cattail is applied to the middle layer of hay, which itself sits on a thin coat of reed. Long rolls of thatch are used at the roof’s margins to “kick out” the areas where the thatch might otherwise sag.

English houses in 1627 Plimoth were likely mortared with daub: A mixture of clay, loam, and straw. Here is a “daub pit”, where colonists, as well as some of our intrepid guests, doff their shoes and jump in to help us mix the components into a workable mortar. The new daub is applied to “wattle”, which are sticks set into the stud panels to give support to the drying mixture. It takes a few weeks to season, but will make a good wall, relatively impervious to weather.

We set up a canvas shelter to increase our working space while the daubers were working clay inside the house. Here, Plimoth Plantation’s Interpretive Artisans will square up timber for doors and shutters to enclose the new house.

Additionally, the thatchers have carried their work to the front of the house. They are about half done with the middle layer of hay.

Work on the new Brewster House will continue through the summer and into the fall.

Lessons from Henry Roach

April 6th, 2010 by admin

The day after Easter, on a postcard-perfect spring day, the Plimoth Plantation Interpretive Artisans Department welcomed former museum employee Henry Roach to come and show us how to make spars. Hank is a thatcher (having learned from the legendary Peter Slevin), basket maker, and all-around craftsman. He is a master of many forgotten arts and is an invaluable source of information. His willingness to share his knowledge, coupled with his sense of humor, made for very enjoyable and informative morning.

What are spars?

April 6th, 2010 by admin

Spars are the wooden “staples” that hold down thatch on a roof. They are driven into the thatch, across long sticks which run the length of the roof, to help secure the material. They are twisted from green wood such as maple, and each roof in our re-created English Village needs several hundred of them.

A sapling of about 1 1/2 inch in diameter and about 2 feet long, is split in half (sometimes quartered) with a tool called a bill-hook. The hook is also used to point the ends of the spar so it more easily can be driven into the thatch.

Twisting the spar

April 6th, 2010 by admin

Twisting the spar is particularly challenging. While it would seem an easy process, there is a surprising amount of subtlety in doing it correctly and efficiently.

Here, Hank has trimmed just enough of the wood away to make it easier to twist without breaking. He has left a ridge for his fingers to grasp, and with a deft twist of his right hand, bends the fibers of the sapling.

Perfectly positioned

April 6th, 2010 by admin

Here, Hank’s hands and fingers are perfectly positioned to twist the spar with a minimum of breaking. The tip of his right index finger makes a perfect mold to wrap the spar around. The few broken fibers on this spar have more to do with the material than with Hank’s technique.

Hands-On Demonstration

April 6th, 2010 by admin

Here, Hank is demonstrating just the right twisting motion to Interpretive Artisan Justin Keegan.

Many thanks to Hank for his time and his expertise. There is so much wisdom in the seemingly simple process of making a spar. We are fortunate to have Hank as both a resource and as a friend.

It’s Almost Time…

March 2nd, 2010 by admin

We will be, once again, opening the gates to our village (and the rest of the museum) to visitors on March 20th of this year. We hope all of you can plan on being in attendance.

And on opening day there will be a Farm Fresh Breakfast serving Scrambled eggs, Bacon/sausages, French toast casserole, biscuits & gravy, Corn & blueberry muffins, fruit salad, home fries, butter and preserves, assorted juices/milk, coffee/tea/decaf. Tax, tip and Museum Admission is included for: $32.00 for adults, ($15.00 for Museum Members), $22.00 for children ($10.00 for Child Museum Members).

If you’d like a FREE ticket to Plimoth Plantation, just stop by on Saturday March 13th, 2010 for our 18th annual Spring Clean Day.

“Spring Clean Day is a sign of winter’s end and a community tradition many look forward to! Volunteers are encouraged to invite a friend or enlist whole families to join Plimoth Plantation staff for a fun-filled day of planting, raking, painting, dusting, cleaning and the overall setup of museum exhibits and sites, as we prepare for the 2010 season. This harbinger of spring is a great opportunity to lend a helping hand. 
Registration begins at 9 AM, in the Visitor Center. Lunch will be served at 1 PM. Everyone will receive (with museum thanks!) a complimentary pass for a return visit to Plimoth Plantation in 2010 to admire the day’s achievements. All are asked to R.S.V.P. by Thursday, March 4, by calling 508-746-1622, 8210, or by emailing ppeters@plimoth.org.”

By the way, if you didn’t know, we’ve been having a Farmer’s Market here over the winter every third Thursday December through May. The upcoming ones are Thursday March 13, April 16, and finally May 21.

I hope I get a chance to see all of you this year. Stop by Stephen Hopkins’ house. He’ll look a lot like me.


Megs and the Foodways Makeover

February 7th, 2010 by admin

So there have been some changes (and major improvements) to the Colonial Foodways kitchen and store room. I have installed a new floor in the store room which was desperately needed.. That painted particle board was just awful. I have also repainted the door (purple), trim (green), and one part of the ceiling in the kitchen to give the room a whole new cheerful and spunky feel (if I do say so). So I hope everyone will enjoy the new Colonial Foodways area. Here are some pictures from my progress over the past few weeks.

It's Not Just the Food, It's the Ways

It's Not Just the Food, It's the Ways

Sky's the Limit!

Sky's the Limit!

foodways floor
New Storeroom Floor

Yours Truly,
Megan Stanley
Foodways Apprentice

One House Goes Up and Another Comes Down

February 3rd, 2010 by admin

Pic 1

On Friday, January 29th, after a long, cold morning of “de-thatching” the soon to be razed Brown House in the English Village, we welcomed archeologist Tad Baker, chair of the History Department at Salem State College and other friends who stopped by the Plantation to conduct an informal but informative survey of timber decay patterns & the thrusts & stresses of a failing, 23 yr-old earthfast timber frame. It may sound a little dry, but it was anything but! The detective work that archeologists and framers apply to an old frame and the surviving bits left in and above the ground are as interesting as anything seen on CSI! There are important details to be gleaned on how a timber framed house–without a foundation–will eventually succumb to the ground and the elements, and we can use this valuable information to instruct us in the building of new houses, even as we gain rare insight into the past. We were very impressed as Tad rolled up his metaphorical sleeves on a frigid afternoon, knelt to the ground, trowel in hand, and looked for clues. Many thanks to Tad and friends for their expert help! These are essential relationships for Plimoth Plantation to keep and cultivate as we move forward in our research, understanding, and interpretation.

Pic 2
Michael French and Justin Keegan “de-thatching” Brown House. The reed will be recycled for repairs on the lower storehouse. The old and the new: View of the soon to be razed Brown House with the new Brewster House in the background.

Pic 3

Pic 5
Tad Baker examining sill and post decay of the Brown House. He is looking for patterns of what oak does after 23 years in the ground, and how that affects the overall structure. There is value and insight in making archeological comparisons between a “new” structure, and framing remnants from from centuries ago.

Pic 6
Digging outside looking for sill remnants in Brown House.

Rick McKee
Interpretive Artisan

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