My So-Called Pilgrim Life

Please pardon the interruption of this blog. Visit our blog page, where the conversation will continue from both familiar voices and new bloggers on many topics related to Plimoth Plantation!

A chronicle of daily life in the 1627 English village at Plimoth Plantation from both a modern and historical perspective.


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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  1. KMW says:

    Hi, Dr John, great to see this blog up and running. I’ll be checking in from time to time to comment, like what did the pilgrims eat on all the other days that weren’t Thanksgiving and other foodways topics. Maybe I should start with defining foodways, which is basically the food and all the things you do with it,hence the food and the ways. And to all you other lurkers – Come on in, the water’s just fine!

  2. tim turner says:

    Hey, Dr Kemp

    looks like all the bugs are worked out. Nice start keep it going and get other staff blogging.

    Jon one thing I have to know Why don’t have tobacco growing in the village ?
    tim turner

  3. Kat Zak says:

    Hey Dr. Kemp,
    Nice work, I was wondering when CID would start Bloging. Looking forward to the future posts. All of the Blogs are good reads and a good way to keep those of us who are now on the outside informed on what is happening on the inside. Keep up the good work and our best to all.
    -Kat & Richard

  4. Jonny Larason says:

    This is actually a reply to Tim’s comment- not John’s typically erudite delineation of this blog’s purpose.
    There were many crops grown by the early colonists that we don’t exhibit in the village. We are limited in every part of our Agricultural Exhibit by the Three Bears- manpower, time, and space. English farmers dislocated to the land of the Wampanoag were trying every different crop they could think of. We focus our exhibit on maize corn because it was absolutely the most significant crop historically and economically. We also rotate other crops through as we can. This year, we also grew tobacco and peas.

  5. Simply Suzy says:

    I am now a regular visitor to both As the Wetu Turns, and My So Called Pilgrim Life… What a great perspective to share with all of us. I am a 3rd grade teacher, who visits both villages every year. Although it is always a great refresher course, and invigorates my teaching – I always leave, wondering about what goes on behind the scenes. It is the logistics of it all that intrigues me, so I can’t wait to learn more as your ‘blogs grow.


  6. admin says:

    Hi Suzy,
    Welcome aboard! We hope you will help us in our quest to reach a wider audience. In my capacity as Museum Teacher I’ll be posting from the road from time to time to give folks that perspective as well. If you have ANY questions about what goes on here, please don’t hesitate to ask! We’ll answer the best we can.


  7. How do Plimoth Plantation trainees learn to speak Early Modern English?

    How long does it usually take a Plimoth Plantation trainee to become a good, solid speaker of Early Modern English — someone who no longer accidentally lapses into present-day English pronunciations/vocabulary/idioms/grammar while “in character”?

    At the end of the day or the end of the season (whenever you come back “out of character” and return to the 21st century), do you ever find yourself accidentally slipping into Early Modern English at times — “Nay, constable, the lantern that now shineth red did shine green as you approached?”

    Or — dare I ask? — do you ever *intentionally* slip into Early Modern English while communicating with the rest of us: as a joke, for fun, or just to freak people out?

    Also — do those Plimoth Plantation interpreters who play the roles of people who could write (such as William Bradford) learn to write in a period style of handwriting?
    (This last question particularly interests me because, here in the 21st-century world, I actually make my living as a handwriting teacher using/teaching the Italic style which somewhat pre-dates the Plimoth settlement! I asked my other questions — about Early Modern English — because at college I majored in linguistics and particularly enjoyed studying the history of English.)

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