September, 2008

Congratualtions to Tim Turner

September 30th, 2008 by admin

Our friend Tim Turner was recently promoted to Manager (is that title correct?) of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program. Tim has long been a stalwart in our museum and it’s great to see him achieve this position. Congrats, Tim!

Buddy

Where Are All The Kids?

September 23rd, 2008 by admin

Since this is to address a legitimate question and not to discuss 17th century word usage (i.e. kids meaning baby goats) let me delve into it in a somewhat roundabout way.

It is a question that often puzzles us in the 17th century English Village. I don’t mean it puzzles our characters, they know exactly where their children are. They’re “down the lane”, or “out in the fields”, or “at the shore tending to the swine”. No, it puzzles (or amuses) us as modern people when visitors want to know where the children are. This is particularly true when it is a teacher herding his or her own classroom about our village.

We appreciate that they have allowed themselves the luxury of suspension of disbelief and understand that they have gone “back in time”. But surely they must know that they haven’t really and our children are exactly where theirs are- In School! We have child labor laws here in the Commonwealth!

A corollary to this is when we do have child volunteers in the village (like this year) and adults demand, “Why aren’t these children in school?” To which young Bartle Allerton must explain that we don’t have a school in New Plymouth yet.

I had the distinct pleasure and responsibility (and certainly it was that) to be the Child Volunteer Coordinator this summer. We had nine boys and girls in costume, doing a great job with such difficult work as 17th English dialect, bringing visitor’s children into their games, hauling wood and water, cooking dinner, and just general all around being Pilgrim kids. So, I want to give special thanks to Andrew, Jonah, Lilia, Patrick, Paul, Marie, Matty, Miranda, and Sarah. It was a treat for everyone to have you with us this summer and we hope to see you next year.

Buddy

Goodbye Blue Monday*

September 19th, 2008 by admin

As a colonial role-player in the English Village, my work involves an esoteric assortment of skills. In the course of the day I kindle fires, assist with building construction, work with rare breed animals, raise heirloom vegetables, weed back-bred 17th century corn, cook the odd pottage, talk in a regional English dialect, etc, etc. In order to best represent the farming community of New Plymouth, village staff engage in the same sort of work and activities carried out by the English in 1627. While cooking, gardening, and house building have been exhibited in front of the public for years, within the last four seasons we’ve been developing another exhibit, that of household laundry.

In 2001, Maureen Richard, our Curator of Reproductions, researched and wrote a paper on washing household linens in 1627 Plymouth which was published in The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife: Women’s Work in New England 1620-1920. This paper compiled a number of early 17th century sources on washing linen in Early Modern England, and is a handy resource for the interpretive staff wishing to explain to visitors how we think laundry was carried out in New Plymouth. With the acquisition and creation of a reproduction wooden ‘bucking’ tub, ‘washing beetles’, and benches, we have been able to put into practice the written evidence from the 17th century.

Although a heap of work, this exhibit is particularly exciting for staff and visitors alike. Most of the work happens at our village’s recreated spring, a feature that is often overlooked by visitors, but one of the most unique about our site. We are privileged to have access at our museum to a historically accurate water source that we can use with visitors. The linens being washed are napkins, sheets, towels, smocks, and shirts that have been soiled through real use on site. When put out to dry, visitors find not just table linens, but actual clothes. We do our best to create a sense of a personal, cohesive, working community, and what’s more personal than someones underwear?

We hope you’ll be able to join us and help air out our dirty laundry! Like all of our activities, they come and go with the seasons and the weather, so come back soon and help the colonial staff work through another year in 1627.

Justin Squizzero

*Blue Monday refers to the later practice of doing laundry exclusively on Monday, and ‘blueing’, a light rinse of indigo or other blue pigment on white cloth to create an optical illusion making the cloth appear whiter. There is no evidence that either was done in the early 17th century, and the earliest reference to the phrase in the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1801.

Up and Running

September 19th, 2008 by admin

Many of us who work in the 1627 Village are glad to see our “Colonial/Pilgrim/Village Blog” finally up and running–if that is blogs are supposed to do. We’re also curious to see just how it actually will run (or whatever).

I believe I speak on behalf of many on our professional staff, who hope our blog will open some doors and promote new and different kinds of communication with people who share our interest both in colonial history and in the way colonial history is told. We’re all grateful to Buddy Tripp for his energy and dedication in getting our blog set up. He’s been working on this since last winter; and without his steady effort in ‘08, we suspect we wouldn’t have been blogging till 2009. We’re also grateful to be following pathways in the blogosphere that have been explored by several of our colleagues: Jill Hall (with her partners in “The Embroiderer’s Story”), Peter Arenstam (“The Captain’s Blog” about Mayflower II), and especially Tim Turner, Casey Figueroa, and others at WIP (Wampanoag Indigenous Program) who have worked with Buddy and provided us with encouraging examples of blog posts on their “As the Wetu Turns.”

Lisa Whalen has already posted some thoughts on the language and vocabulary that we use in discussing Plymouth’s colonial past.  And we’re going to be putting up more information about some of the special things we’ve been working on this year.  Colonial interpreters are interested in a wide range of topics. As we speak “in character” with museum guests in the 1627 Village (sometimes more than 2000 a day), we want to avoid “breaking character” in order to be faithful in expressing the attitudes as well as the experience of colonists who lived here almost four centuries ago.  This blog will enable our modern audience to connect with us from many new angles.

John K.

The Billington Boys Tried To Blow Up The Mayflower?

September 17th, 2008 by admin

Ah, the Billington boys, John and Francis. Much maligned by a number of authors of popular fictions, these two are often the subject of conversation in our 1627 English Village. In that I played their father, John Billington this year, I have been involved in many of these conversations.

I say much maligned because one author in Mourt’s Relation saw fit to mention them by saying, “The fifth day [of December, 1620] we, through God’s mercy, escaped a great danger by the foolishness of a boy, one of Francis Billington’s sons, who, in his father’s absence, had got gunpowder, and had shot off a piece or two, and made squibs; but there being a fowling-piece charged in his father’s cabin, shot her off in the cabin; there being a little barrel of [gun] powder half full, scattered in and about the cabin, the fire being within four foot of the bed between the decks, and many flints and iron things about the cabin, and many people about the fire; and yet, by God’s mercy, no harm done.”

Skipping over the fact that the author seems to have confused the elder Billington with his son, clearly this is a mischievous act but why didn’t all these people around the fire seem to be in any great panic about this event? Could it be that the author thought the deed more dire than the rest of the company? After all, boys will be boys. It just goes to show that the act of boys playing with firecrackers is hardly a new idea.

Elsewhere the lads have been accused of everything from “trying to blow up the Mayflower” (the above event) to torturing cats. The problem with these stories is that there aren’t any facts to back them up. While it might be fun for children to read these fictional adventures, it can become problematic for us playing their neighbors and loved ones. Children believe these stories and it becomes yet one more popular myth we have to explain away. But not to complain, that’s part of our job.

A side note to this: Above I made reference to people sitting around a fire. The problem with me saying that is I am making an assumption. Are there passengers sitting around an open flame on an old wooden ship with an open cask of gunpowder nearby? It seems like this might present a dangerous situation. Or did the boy start the fire that people were around. I simply don’t know with any certainty. I can’t completely discern the author’s intent of meaning here. It’s things like this that keep my work interesting. This, for me, is one of the reasons we are called Colonial Interpreters. I have to interpret what I think the writer is trying to say and give that spin to our visitors. But what I don’t do is make up out of whole cloth stories that might amuse children simply for entertainment value. John Billington and his family were real people. I owe it to them to portray them as honestly as I can. They deserve it.

Buddy

More Thoughts On Pilgrim

September 14th, 2008 by admin

Museum thinking on the word (and use of the word) Pilgrim.

But first, “pilgrim” with a small “p”: not only does Bradford use it, although to be fair he is quoting scripture not writing in his own words, but so does Robert Cushman in Mourt’s Relation (p.89) “But now we are all in all places strangers [also a word with baggage] and pilgrims, travellers and sojourners, most properly, having no dwelling but in this earthen tabernacle…” Edward Winslow uses the word “pilgrimage” in Hypocrasie Unmasked (in the Colonial Interpretation Department’s Training Manual V) p. 88, first paragraph, second to last line “before our pilgrimage here bee ended”. You can get a sense of what these words mean in Protestant rhetoric of the time. So in fact, in certain contexts it would be a very appropriate word for our characters to use.

The word “Pilgrim” with a capital “P” on the other hand is less often helpful for the museum to use casually because it doesn’t simply describe a group of people but it connotes the whole Victorian image of the… well…. Pilgrims. Brave and hardy wearers of black clothes and tall hats, persecuted, lovers of religious freedom and democracy, founders of the American way… You get the idea.

Lisa Whalen

Manager- Colonial Interpretation Department

“And They Knew They Were Pilgrims”…Redux

September 10th, 2008 by admin

As many who have visited our museum have learned, our characters in the 1627 English Village tend to steer visitors away from referring to us as “pilgrims”. William Bradford does use the word once in his history Of Plimoth Plantation. He uses the quote with which I’ve titled this post. But we tend not to think of these people in the classic definition of the word pilgrim.

Dictionary.com defines the word as: a person who journeys, esp. a long distance, to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion: pilgrims to the Holy Land, and that is, I think, how the people we portray would define the word in their time.

That said, we will probably use the word here sometimes for two reasons. Firstly, it is how the people who came to New Plimoth in 1620 on a ship called Mayflower have become to affectionately be known throughout the world. And secondly, it is because we want this blog (and, by extension, our museum) to become more widely known.

When I first heard about this project I became very excited for us. We were entering into new and exciting territory. Now we’ve really gone from 1620 to 2008…just by typing into cyberspace. However, when I typed the word “pilgrim” into Google’s search engine we were nowhere to be found, at least not on the first page where we should be. And the same held true for “Thanksgiving.” Imagine that.

So, while we might use these words here in a manner unfamiliar to the people we represent, they will help us rank higher in the search engines. Don’t worry, our characters may still educate you on the proper use of their English language, but for now—Pilgrim will do just fine.

Buddy Tripp

Lead Colonial Interpreter

PILGRIM’S PROGRESS?. . . THEY KNEW THEY WERE PILGRIMS?

September 5th, 2008 by admin

Several members of Plimoth Plantation’s costumed staff (called Colonial Interpreters at the museum) are starting this blog to answer questions and provide insight about our work in the 1627 English Village. Our interpretive method of role-playing or “first-person interpretation” requires each of us to take on the identity of a colonist known to have actually lived here during our chosen year. Maybe you’d like to know why we chosen that year. There are reasons! Every spring, we start over again, and as the year goes by we try our best to share with modern museum guests what people at the Plantation were doing and thinking and feeling that year–day-by-day and person-by-person.

We are deeply committed to staying in character and answering every question from our particular character’s 1627 point of view. Yet we know that many 21st-century visitors to our living history site would like to know more about how we do what we do. What kind of training do we undergo; what’s it like working in costume and in character every day for most of a year (unlike actors in a play lasting a few hours, who speak memorized “lines” written by someone else); and how do we feel about the activities, the tools and animals, the clothing and crops, the attitudes and beliefs of the people we impersonate?

We’d like to answer your questions and we look forward to dialogue and discussion on topics of mutual concern—especially on some of the things we cannot talk about when we’re in costume and in character. Depending on the question, we have quite a range of our professional staff from Plimoth Plantation’s Colonial Interpretation Department ready to respond. We are young and old, male and female, seasoned veterans and recent hires. We’re trying to learn what a particular colonist might have known about everything from foodways and clothing to military training in our period, from timber-framed houses to early 17th-century music, from colonial agriculture to Reformation religious controversy. Let us know what interests you about our effort at Plimoth Plantation to recreate as much as we can of the 1627 colony. We’re eager to find new ways of communicating with contemporary audiences about our interpretation of Plymouth’s colonial culture—in all its physical, social, and spiritual complexity.

Dr. John Kemp

Director of Interpretation

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