Living History

I realize that I am in to some pretty different stuff.  (stop right there and get your mind out of the gutter!)  But it’s always fun to stop and contemplate what you would do with yourself if you had unlimited money.  And I’m talking unlimited money.  You never have to worry about it running out or where it’s going to come from.

Here’s what I would do with my unlimited money.

No, seriously, this is what I would do….

Have you ever watched those PBS reality shows?  You know, like Manor House, Frontier House, Colonial House, or my favorite, Regency House Party?  Have you ever been to Colonial Williamsburg or Plymouth Plantation here in the US?

I would build a high-end theme park/sleep-away camp for nerdy adults like me.

First, I would buy some land.  A big tract of land, mind you, probably somewhere in Pennsylvania.  It would need to be sort of remote but also easily accessible from Philadelphia and New York City.

Like Louisa May Alcott's house, which I've visited.

Then I would build a small town of historic-style buildings there.  I would probably go for some Colonial style buildings, some Federalist style buildings and some early and late Victorian buildings.  I would construct them as they would have been constructed in the 19th century.  In other words, no electricity and no modern plumbing.  But I would have special buildings within this town that did have all of the conveniences of modern life … on the inside.  On the outside they would look like the other historically accurate buildings.

Then I would invite people to come stay for varying lengths of time.  We would all live as if we were back in any given era of American History.

But it’s not quite that simple.

You would have to register to come stay in this village for any given length of time.  Then there would be orientation.  During orientation the guest-participants would get a lesson in what it was like to live back in the era in which we’re living (it would change, by the way, but I’ll get to that).  These initial lessons would be things like how to put on a corset the right way and what social rules in any given time period were.

Then the fun begins.

Who wouldn't want to dress like this for months on end?

For months at a time the village would operate as if it were a living piece of history.  Guests could come and go depending on the length of the stay they booked.  There would be scheduled activities every day to learn various aspects of history through living it.  People would learn how to dance, handicrafts, how to load and fire period weapons, horsemanship, all the stuff people did in the 19th century.  And there would be social events too, dinners and dances and concerts.

The time period of any given stretch in the village could change from season to season, year to year.  Every day news would arrive of what is happening in the world at that time.  If we were having a Colonial period there would be news of goings on with the Continental Congress or Washington’s armies and the like.  If we were enacting the Federalist era there would be reports of the great men and activities of the day.  If we were living during the Civil War you know parts of the conflict would seep their way into our lives.  And so on and so forth.

There would also be staff.  Yep.  These specially trained servants and working-class townsmen would be college kids doing internships for various universities.  They would receive academic credit for partaking as the workforce of this village.  They could also be the instructors too in some cases.  There would be a whole army of them there to give credibility to the environment.

Of course there would also be modern emergency facilities tucked away in all this.  There would have to be a modern medical clinic, although it would also be fun to have people try out historic cures.  Well, at least the ones that are still legal.  So no laudanum.  And there would have to be communications and transportation readily available.  But that can be hidden fairly easily.

Then there would be my house.  It would have every modern convenience, of course.  I mean, I have to have a computer to write with, and since I would be running the place there would be a lot to coordinate.  You need technology for that.

Yep, this would be the life.

But for everyone else, it’s all about the authentic experience.  I think that’s why people would want to come: to experience life in another era, or at least as close as you can come to it.  Granted, unlike the PBS reality shows I think I would allow modern deodorant and other hygienic necessities.  And I would probably sneak a bathhouse with showers in there somewhere for when people get tired of historical bathing.  But anyone who wants to keep it as authentic as possible would be encouraged to do so.

Yes, I know this would take a seriously large amount of money.  In fact, I don’t see that it would necessarily be sustainable.  But who knows.  It might.

So are you coming to visit my historic village?  If you come, what era would you want to visit?

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10 thoughts on “Living History

  1. I’ve got a dress like that. I bought the pattern and fabric in the US (ages ago) and sewed it myself. Then, it hung in my wardrobe for a long time, only used occasionally for the carnival (Fasching in Germany). I did wear it for a whole day once: as my wedding gown.

    • The Village. Which was awesome, btw. But in that movie only the adults knew it was a created place and the kids all thought it was real. What I propose is more of a theme park. =D

  2. Sign me up. I love this idea! The period…? Maybe the Enlightenment, when everyone was starting to better understand the world. Or the Renaissance. I bet a lot of people would really enjoy it.

    I had a similar experience on the sea — spending seven days as working crew on The Endeavour, an Australian replica of an 18th c Tall Ship. We strung up and slept in (very small) hammocks every night, had to climb 100 feet up the rigging many times a day to trim huge and heavy canvas sails. I came away with a much deeper understanding of manual labor and what life was like then. I loved it.

  3. Yes, yes and yes! Sign me up now baby. Regency, Edwardian, Tudor and Ancient Rome! Now there’s a challenge for you…

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