|view of Halifax, Dominic Serres, 1765, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia|
And it's much easier now that there is just two of us working in this machine.
We used to joke that by adding one person to a living history event, we ended up packing twice as much kit. And this was true. Not just kit, but also emotional kit. We were so used to working as a team, that together we act like one person, but add another person to that mix, we needed to consider that person. No matter how close they were to us, they were still a separate person. With their own needs, desires, expectations.
Now think of adding a couple hundred people to your mix. This is what running a living history event is like. You can't simply go about your day, situation normal. You can't get up with your own schedule, pour your own coffee, and go do your job for the day. You have to take into consideration all the people who are coming out for your event.
It's really important for the people attending your event to know the history behind the scenario you are trying to interpret for the day, but it is also important for people to understand the logistics. This really hit home a couple of times this year when attending events for the first time, in places I had never been before, with people I had never met. Because the majority of the event attendees had done these events multiple times before, they knew what to expect. I didn't even know what kinds of questions to ask, since there was so much I didn't know, I didn't know where to start to ask.
When we moved here to Montreal. I knew a few things about military moves. Now that I have done one, I know more, so the next time should run a bit more smoothly...one can hope. The same applies to living history events. With the move, there are logistics that I will expect and ask for. Timelines I will know to also expect. We should be asking ourselves these types of questions about the living history events we plan as well...especially when we know the event better than anyone else.
For future living history events, I would like to see a brief synapsis of the event itself. I don't really need to be writing a 30 page academic paper on it, so a brief overview of the history is really all I need. I need to know what event staff want from me. Am I Loyalist? Patriot? Undecided? Who am I working for? What jobs do I need to be doing during the interpretation? What material culture do I need to bring with me? Am I expected to be doing full-on interpretation? Or am I also expected to do security and crowd control? Will I be indoors, or outside most of the day? Walking long distances? I wear high heels most of the time, so this is important. What time am I expected to be on site, ready for business, and when am I expecting to be able to leave and go home? If everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing before they arrive on-site, then the interpretation runs much more smoothly overall, and there's less frantic, last minute rushing around, trying to make things work.
There are other things that are important to know. Is this event just a single day, or is it only part of a day? We went to an event this year, driving five hours, to find out that the interpretation was only an hour. We were lost for the rest of the weekend, not knowing what to do with ourselves, and to be honest, disappointed. We should be telling our interpreters this. But also, what sort of sleeping accommodation is available, and what sort of meal arrangements are available. We don't always need to be putting on big, catered spreads of food, like Parks Canada has done in the past, but knowing that the site restaurant will be open later or earlier so we can eat is fantastic information. I honestly don't mind paying for my meals, but I need to know where I can get them. I also need to know where the closest hotels are, if I need some sort of modern sleeping accommodation at the last minute (post tropical storm hypothermia, anyone?). Knowing there aren't any hotels nearby, is also helpful.
You may not think that a little tid-bit of information is all that important, but it could be important to someone. Together, let's plan events a bit better. Let's be sharing information a bit more widely. And not expecting because we have always done it this way, that everyone knows what 'that way' is.