In this past year, I have seen museum sites wanting to hire curators, but are only willing to pay them 10$/hour, and give them 20 hours/week...looking for PhD candidates. I have noticed an influx of Jack Sparrow characters showing up where living history events used to happen. And yet other sites lay off, or outright fire anyone who might have a clue how to do actual historical research, in favour of the people in accounting who know how to crunch numbers and make more money for the directors.
We have the history. We have the natural beauty of our environment. We still have the tourism numbers...but those won't last if we don't stand up for what makes Nova Scotia beautiful. If everywhere you look, tourists are faced with yet another McDonald's, another holiday fairground, another strip mall of the same stores they find at home, those tourists will simply stay home.
And yes, sometimes, it means spending a bit of money to earn money.
I just finished my third comprehensive exam, save for some minor editing, which I will likely have finished Monday. Then I can send it off. It's an interpretation plan for a small museum in nova Scotia, a house museum. Very cool living history could happen there, if the directors and full time staff can open up to the ideas in my paper. It may also make it relevant to the community at large, bringing in folks who usually walk right on by on their way to the closest Tim's.
On a recent visit, close to their opening day, we walked in to find staff dressed in 'historical costume' to give us a tour. Unfortunately, they weren't really in historical costume, rather, they were dressed in pieces of historic garments, over their modern clothes. There were modern coffee cups, and water bottles left out on the table in the historical room. One of them was on her cell phone, and simply left it sitting on the table when they offered to give us a tour.
My first thought was, 'why don't they just wear golf shirts?' The half hearted attempt just showed me that there was a lack of knowledge, and a lack of care.
This spring, I have been fortunate enough to attend some outstanding living history events in the US. OUTSTANDING! Almost all run by young professionals and volunteers. Every minute detail is carefully considered in their clothing and accoutrements. Participants are vetted to ensure a quality product will be provided to the public. And the Public! The sheer numbers of people turning out to watch these events is outstanding as well. At Lexington Mass, there were several thousand spectators lining the Battle road to watch a half hour/45 minutes of interpretation. I was gobsmacked.
Then I asked, why can't we do that in Nova Scotia? We have the history. We just have to care.
We have to care that our historical wardrobes are correct for the period we are interpreting. We have to care that we are wearing all the appropriate pieces for that wardrobe, that they are finished properly, and fit. No safety pins please!
And we have to care a bit more about the venues that we participate in. It's all great fun when the Bill Lynch comes to town, but we don't have to be the side show to the side show. We can find other, more historic venues to pitch our camps in. We can make an offer to the small, struggling house museum to teach their staff what they should be wearing, and how to wear it...hell, some of us can even teach them how to make their own clothes...and maybe grow our numbers in the process.
Minute Man started off as a small event. Carefully vetting participants to ensure quality programming. Fellow living historians offered to run workshops in the winter months to help others up their living history game. This year, the living history people also numbered in the hundreds. Small hundreds, but hundreds nevertheless.
If we don't change our mindset towards living history soon, we will be left behind. We need to dig out those 'best practices' standards for our group, the umbrella organization, and maybe the sites we want to attend, and really look long and hard at our kit. The progressive people are leaving us behind...just like those 1976ers, smoking cigarettes and looking to drink beer and go 'pew, pew' with their buddies for the weekend...you know, those guys you just don't want to invite around anymore. Like your embarrassing, drunk uncle.