Thursday, July 4, 2019

Greenfield Village 2019

This post is coming just a bit later than I'd like, but oh is it exciting to be on summer vacation again! There's something about staying up late every night...and getting up early to teach and then work on my shop. Really summer break is just another "shift" of work, one that allows me to have a bit more financial freedom with online teaching. But I digress. GREENFIELD!

(Photos of me are from Ken Giorlando of Passion for the Past, the rest are Anneliese)

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This year was absolutely fantastic in a million ways. First, my friend Anneliese, who is the blogger The Young Sewphisticate, drove in and helped out for the weekend. And by helped out, I mean made cookies, tidied our tent bedroom, made the shop amazing, and even saved my Grandma's mirror when the tent went down during a storm. (Everyone was okay; a few people lost items, but no one hurt). Stephen and Allison were my new vendor neighbors who fed me once (heroes) and were fun to hang out with. And of course Mac, Bob, and Janet made for good company.
(I ate most of these)

As per usual, I took no pictures. Anneliese was AMAZING and did that for my shop. The weekend was very busy, and I sold more jewelry than I have in the four years I've been selling at Greenfield Village. While the financial part is a plus (I'm eyeballing a few 19th century dresses on Ebay right now), the best part was having people to hang out with throughout the day. I added new jewelry to the shop too, and I liked the positive response to some of my new research.

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Another cool thing; I was able to participate in this year's 21st Michigan group photo! Usually I'm swamped over at the shop. I even sneaked in a few photo bombs...
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Since I hang out under my tent fly all weekend, I love when people come to visit. This year my family drove down from Caseville. I was able to spend a little time with my new nephew, Reed. My family is growing bit by bit, and the little fellow is the perfect addition. He's in the stroller in this picture, so I added a more recent one my sister took. I assume that he loved every minute of Greenfield Village and he will join me in reenacting clothes in the future.
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Please note this is the biggest picture in the post for...reasons...



So I did actually get a few pictures of Anneliese dancing. And I turned them into a GIF because why not? And I was happy to see her out on the floor; I'm usually pretty tired by Sunday night, so my ballroom participation is usually limited to drinking lemonade and admiring pretty dresses. Still, it was a lot of fun to hang out!



I will count this year at Greenfield Village a smashing success. June was my month off, and now I'm headed right into Conference Preparations. Look for future posts; we have a ton of good changes! 

Be safe out there my fellow history-lovers! 

~Kristen

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Final Greenfield Village Preparations

I've posted about Greenfield Village preparations in the past, but even though I know EXACTLY what needs to be done, I'm still running all over the place to get things dones. Despite organized lists, dedicated prep time, and even an extra pair of hands, I still find myself wondering why the heck do I do this?
Yes, I'm drinking my father's drink while he parks my trailer...

The answer is of course that I love living history. And to do something you love, sometimes you have to prepare. This year, one thing that took up a bit of my time was preparing my trailer.

I bought the trailer a few years ago, and my parents have graciously allowed me to store it on their (awesome) property, under a covered part of their pole barn. My father is meticulous about storing things properly. Also, he is a fanatic about safety.

If there was anywhere to be a fanatic about with safety, this is a good place. We check my breaks, the tires, lights, add grease or WD40 where needed, and toss in the spare tire/lug wrench. Then we carefully balance to make sure the whole thing won't tip when I hit the road. Between the poles, canvas, chairs, and tables, it's pretty heavy. He typically stands there with a beer in hand, making sure I do the whole thing the way it's supposed to be done.
If you had told me five years ago that I would own/service a trailer, I would have laughed. But it's serious stuff, and if you're planning summer events, please go check to make sure everything is in place. Make sure have insurance, your AAA card, or whatever you need to travel. Reenacting goes so much more smoothly when you do. Happy (safe) reenacting my friends!

~Kristen

Friday, May 10, 2019

Spring Cleaning

'Tis the season for spring cleaning! Time to scrub down the windows, organize the shelves, and slides into the domestic goodness that is my womanly virtue.

Ha

I am many things, but as most of my family and close friends will tell you, completely neat and organized is not one of them. Now sure, my classroom where I teach everyday is certainly put together. But alas, my poor car and parts of our house are a complete and utter disaster at times.

Probably the worst spot is my craft room. Here my 19th century jewelry business meets my modern business meets my reenacting closet. Between a chewy puppy and two sneaky cats, something had to change. Here, gaze upon the terrible mess that is my space.

*These pictures were taken after we had already done a huge clean up. *Sigh



Apparently I am not alone in my cleaning endeavors. Many 19th century publications offer advice to housekeepers and ladies wishing to find the pinnacle of cleanliness.

Godey's Lady's Book; May, 1859
HOUSE CLEANING 
So homely a topic as house cleaning has its charms, as well as royal beauty, and we know that at this season young housekeepers are glad of any hints on the subject. Many people have their general house cleanings in the warm November days, which we call Indian summer, when the flies have disappeared. The carpets are shaken, walls whitewashed, and the idea is that the house is more shut up, and will keep clean, with a little rearranging, through the summer. Where families go to the country, the town house certainly needs but one upsetting, and that is just before their return in the fall; but where the house is occupied the year round, our own fancy is to have everything fresh and clean with the spring, to do away with the dust and smoke of the winter thoroughly.

I will post pictures of the room once it is complete. Hopefully I will find a bit of inspiration in the 19th century ladies and their "shaken carpets." I certainly fancy a fresh and clean apartment!

~Kristen

Friday, May 3, 2019

Post Conference Recovery

Typically it takes me about a month to recover after the conference. I spend the time visiting family, catching up on my shows, spring cleaning my craft supplies...after three years of The Citizen's Forum, I've created a recovery period to survive for another year. Burnout is real!

The unfortunate part of this time of relaxation is that I'm not prepping for Greenfield Village. As an event, it requires MASSIVE amounts of prepping, even after years of attendance. I've written other blog posts about clearing out my car or crafting to prepare.

An added preparation for me includes my shop. Every year I try to add new items with research, whether it is using a new stone or re configuring a different design. Maybe I'll use a different color combination, add another display piece. It really takes several months to get ready to sell items at Greenfield Village. Even considering the time and effort, I usually cram it into one!

This year was a bit different. I tried picking up new projects, ones that keep me interested. I've attempted a tumbling blocks ribbon sachet. Luckily I've only poked myself a few times, and the amount of profanity about fidgety silk ribbon has been kept at a minimum. Hopefully the dog doesn't repeat what he hears...

Give me the %&8!@*% doughnut...

I've also been playing around with new colors and designs for beadwork. I'm having fun just sitting in front of the tv with bags of beads around. This also helps prepare for Greenfield because I'm finishing projects, even if it's slow. Right around mid-May I start my mad dash to the finish. It's better to spread out the work, plan ahead.


Also, we celebrate Russian Orthodox Easter with part of my family the week after Catholic Easter. It's relaxing and the food is awesome! My Russian is pretty non-existent, but it's a beautiful family tradition that marks the end of the school year for me.

And my nephew Reed! He was born on a THURSDAY, just as we were setting up for the conference. I imagine that little stinker is going to time things perfectly for the rest of his life. Also, he is not stinky right now, he still has that fresh baby smell.


That's pretty much what I've been up to since March. I'm hoping to make it to more summer events this season, as well as post more on the blog. We'll see what new twists life will throw at us :)

~Kristen

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s 2019

Yay! The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s successfully convened another conference! YAAAAY!
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This year it was like starting from square one.  A new space, new hotel, new everything. There were a million awesome things that happened, and a million possibilities of things to come. Starting from scratch is both terrifying and exhilarating, as it can open doors. (I generally avoid doors. They can be scary. Hence my penchant for climbing through windows).

But in all seriousness, this year was quite different. The museum and accompanying village isn't particularly set up for conferences, not like Monroe Community College. We certainly learned a lot about spacing, time, and room setup. Everyone was so flexible and kind. There have been a lot of notes for next year, and everyone had an awesome time hanging out, learning, and just generally enjoying history.

You may notice that there are not many pictures. A lot of these are MY pictures, and I ran myself ragged throughout the weekend. Like, feet burning, arms aching at the end of the day. Pictures were unfortunately at the bottom of my priority list!

A HUGE THANK YOU to Donna Burrows, who donated a large batch of her amazingly designed cookies. Also Brigitte, who did a ton of helping/preparing for the soiree, and Mary, whose meringues were enjoyed by all :) 

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In another blog post I'll discuss more specifically what we did right, what we need to improve, and the theme we're presenting. As of now I'm still slightly recovering (and visiting my new nephew, and preparing for Greenfield Village, and winding up for the end of the school year). It is a busy web we weave indeed!

~Kristen

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Conference Preparations

Things have been a bit quiet on the blog for over a month for many reasons. Some of you may know this already, but my sister is VERY close to her due date, and as of this writing is still "great with child." I've visited my hometown already to check in (thinking there would be a baby already), but alas no nephew. Hopefully he'll be right on time, but if not I may be checking my phone a lot during the conference for updates.

In the meantime, I'm going to share with you some of the prepwork that goes into making a conference happen, especially in the weeks leading up to it. We've certainly improved the process over the past few years, but everyone knows we're hustling to make things happen the closer the date comes!


1. Communicating with speakers, vendors, site staff, conference attendees

This is the time we really make sure everyone is on the same page. I'm messaging or calling the speakers/presenters, emailing vendors, and meeting with site staff to ensure no one has their wires crossed. A week or two before I also send out an email to everyone attending, just in case there are last minute questions. We're at a new site this year, so I'm expecting some!

2. Setting up spaces

Chairs here. Tables there. We need a table at the front to greet people, a few over in this spot to serve food and snacks. Where is the best place to put drinks so they don't make a mess? Don't forget signs to let people know where it is okay to eat, or where the workshops are held. And bathrooms. Can't forget those!

Giving people proper direction onsite helps GREATLY when trying to preserve and protect. For example, we are letting people know that our originals museum has wonderful items that should not be touched because items may be degraded. Instead, find a conference staff person, and we'll gladly jump in to show/help. Because I like when people look at my stuff :)

3. Preparing food

This year we're doing food differently. Snacks and drinks will be available throughout the weekend, strategically placed around the buildings. Meal times will be more flexible too, accommodating different seminar and workshop times.

Food is a big deal for me. I eat at very specific times every day because I am a teacher; I can wolf down an entire meal in 25 minutes, but I prefer to eat while I work. Prep time now means checking the foods we have, evaluating any allergies, and making sure we have enough drinks for the weekend. Also, gathering serving supplies and putting garbage cans in appropriate places.

4. Managing the online presence

The week before the conference, I often find myself barraged with a ton of questions. I totally get it; plans are starting to fall into place. Maybe someone needs to know more about the hotel. Perhaps I didn't word something right on the website. It's important to be fast because it can help alleviate any anxieties someone may have about attending.

It's also important to keep posting to remind people about the registration deadline. I'm guilty of waiting until the last minute to register as well. Sometimes a well-placed poster on Facebook or a quick message can be the necessary reminder.

5. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst

What happens if it snows?
Well, the weather looks pretty good, but I'm keeping some salt in my car, and will locate a shovel. Early morning for me if need be?

What if a speaker can't make it?
We have a backup presentation on a flash drive. Just in case...

What if there is a power outage?
Let's locate that generator.

Even the best plans fall apart for one reason or another. It feels good to think of the worst case scenario, and think of Plan B, C, and D.

6. Taking a deep breath, getting my nails done, and relaxing

It's easy to get overwhelmed. That's why I plan for specific, relaxing activities before and after the conference. I had my nails done this weekend. I'll go to the gym once or twice to get out any energy. On Sunday my fiance and I will take the dog to a nearby park.

We do a TON of work to make this happen. In years past I've not taken care of myself, and the results were disastrous. Stress can take a toll on your personal health. So yes I'll take that massage. And all of the puppy/kitten snuggles required.

In Conclusion
While I know the majority of people reading this blog aren't planning a conference, feel free to take this advice for other types of events. Maybe you coordinate a civilian activity at the next reenactment, or are planning a party. Whatever your situation, do make sure you take care of yourself. Burnout is a very real thing, and often pushes people out of some of their favorite hobbies.

So hopefully we see you at The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s, March 22-24 at The Wolcott Heritage Center Complex in Maumee, Ohio. Registration will close tomorrow, March 15th at the end of the day.
If you interested, Click Here to Register.

Conference game on, friends!

~Kristen

Monday, January 21, 2019

Visual Thinking Strategies and 19th Century Images

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. To be honest, I believe it can speak so much more. Take a peek at this lovely story:


For those of you who don't recall the background of this picture, take some guesses. Why is this crazy woman upset? Why is she holding a blob of paint on what we assume is canvas? Are those quilts in the background? Why is this outside?

Congratulations! You just participated in a visual thinking strategy, similar to ones found in my classroom. I'll throw a picture on the projector in my classroom and have the students simply ask questions. While the idea of asking questions about any topic or image is not new, this particular strategy hit my teacher training a few years ago. It is very successful with students, and I find it to be useful in my own research. We'll talk more about this later in the post.

Speaking of research, what does good research look like? This is something I've covered before. I've created my own guide to ensure a thorough look at history:

The Trifecta of my Research
-Photographic Images
-Textual Documentation
-Surviving Originals

Photographic imagery can be tricky. It can be very difficult to see jewelry (or much of anything) in a picture. They're often  undated, or are too blurry to see other fine details. Sometimes people wear older clothing, or pose. Photography was still a newer technology, so it's no wonder they were experimenting with appropriate (thinking of modern trends with "selfies").

Have you ever heard someone say that they have an "eye" for period images/textiles/accessories? That he/she can simply look at an object and "feel" it out, even without verification? I've scoured thousands of images over the years (thanks to Pinterest/online museum collections/Glenna Jo's stash) and I can't explain why a certain piece looks right. Sometimes I'm wrong, but if it's even questionable I start digging through my research. We cannot trust this instinct as fact (or even trust "experts" all of the time. Everyone is wrong sometimes), but it is a useful tool when narrowing down thousands of images.

Training your eyeballs
The gift of sight is a beautiful thing. Without it, we could not observe the world around us, in all its glory and details. I try to be particularly observant in my everyday life, especially in my classroom. I notice a scowling face, or rushed demeanor. I've trained my eyes to see things that are pertinent to my job. 

Eyeball training is not something you acquire after a week or two. It's a long, multi-step process that we do instinctively over time. Sometimes we look more for specific points of research (I often look at jewelry). Here are some suggestions to training your eyeballs!


1. Use a Visual Thinking Strategy

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is an inquiry-based teaching strategy for all grade levels. You do not need any special art training to use this strategy. The goal of VTS is not to teach the history of a work of art but, rather, to encourage students to observe independently and to back up their comments with evidence. -Milwaukee Art Museum

Personally, I have used visual thinking strategies in my classroom. They are always fantastic lessons, but it takes some practice. If you'd like an idea of what this looks like in person, here's a quick video:


I find this practice to be INCREDIBLY useful when teaching high school students. We often miss details or try to breeze past the observation part. Dwell in the picture. Take in the surroundings, any shades or colors. Deconstruct the image, because you are going to put it back together again.

2. Question yourself

In the video, the instructor mentions three questions. They are so helpful to creating observational skills!

What's going on in this picture?
What do you see that makes you say that?
What more can we find?

Specifically for my research purposes I reword the questions. In terms of reenacting, I can tweak them to better fit our needs:

What items or articles of clothing do you see in the picture?
What makes you say that it is the item/waist treatment/jewelry?
What more can you guess about the image based on what you see?

You're probably wondering how asking questions can help you get answers. For beginners, sometimes it's overwhelming to look at everything all at once. Examining individual pieces allows for greater practice with important details. For our seasoned veterans, it's easy to have that "trained eye" miss other details. Now let's do a practice example for questions.


What type of fabric is her dress?
What did she use to trim her bodice?
What waist treatment do I see?
How did she finish her sleeves?
What color/type of earrings does it look like?
How has she done her hair?
What type of collar is this?

When we start answering these questions, we can begin asking things like:

How old is this person?
What is his/her income?
What is the relationship to the other people in the image?
Where do they live?
About when was this picture taken?

Did you notice yourself looking closer at different elements of the image? If those were questions you asked without my prompting...congratulations! You're a pro! However, this is just a very basic set of questions I've come up with. You can get even more detailed in your examination based on your needs.

3. Use primary sources to back up observations

I've written about primary sources in the past, especially why Pinterest is not Documentation. It's nearly every day I see a fellow reenactor bemoan a certain vendor or self-proclaimed "expert" who doesn't quite understand what a primary resource is. Primary sources help you better understand what you see in an image, because you can comprehend just what you're looking at.

The Teaching Library at the University of California at Berkeley notes that:

"Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to the truth of what actually happened during an historical event or time period. Primary sources are the evidence left behind by participants or observers."

Examples of primary sources include:

-Diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memos, manuscripts and other papers in which individuals describe events in which they were participants or observers
-Memoirs and autobiographies
-Records of organizations and agencies of government
-Published materials written at the time of the event
-Photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures, video recordings documenting what happened
-Original artifacts of all kinds
-Research reports in the sciences and social sciences from the time.

If you're looking for online access to primary resources, I have compiled a list of links to 19th century sources HERE. I use it all the time!

*A pinterest board is not a primary resource
*A book about the time period is not a primary resource 
   (though it can contain them)
*A link to an item on Etsy is not a primary resource
*Someone saying they saw something is not a primary resource
   (if they point you in the right direction, they are awesome!)

4. Ask for help

You know that awesome friend who pointed you in the right direction for that primary resource? Keep him/her around! That person is seriously magical and cool. I have a few mentors that have helped tremendously, and people that have aided in every step of my research process.

These mentors may already have those "trained" eyeballs. They can give you ideas, maybe send a few images your way. Their questions could spark new directions in your research. I've spent hours pouring through Glenna Jo's image collection. A good mentor will offer support whenever possible. They will offer you constructive criticism in a way that actually promotes change. If you leave a meeting/phone call/conversation with your mentor and feel good, then you found a good mentor!

Because even if you make mistakes, a good teacher knows that's part of the process. And making you feel terrible about messing up doesn't create a positive learning environment.

*If you find yourself in a toxic mentor/mentee relationship, I recommend leaving. I don't care how much a person knows; you deserve to be treated with respect. 

5. Reflect on your process

Reflection is a tough thing to do. It requires you to think about what you did right, wrong, and everything in between. You have to examine your process, find fault in yourself, and yet still find the motivation to improve. It's obnoxiously necessary.

I cringe sometimes when I think of the mistakes I've made in the past. It would be easy to get defensive, to refuse to change simply to save my own ego. Unfortunately Fortunately, as a teacher, my ego was deflated long ago when my students very decidedly pointed out my many flaws. There's nothing like a roomful of teenagers gleefully chirping about a spelling error on a handout...but it made me more aware of my own faults.

Here's a list of questions that can help you reflect when training your eyeballs:

What do I look for the most/least?
What biases do I have when looking at these images?
Which images DISPROVE what I believe?
How can I find more sources to prove my point?
If I could change one thing about my research right now, what would it be?

* The idea is to challenge yourself. Be your own best critic. But also be kind, as a good critic will know the right way to find your bias but not make you feel like crap. When I edit, I tend to treat myself to a cookie. Or a bit of fabric...

In Conclusion

As I prepare for the 2019 conference, primary documentation weighs heavily on my mind. In 2018 we made it our goal that EVERY item in our museum area had primary documentation, especially images. It was an exhausting task, one that Glenna Jo and I pushed for months. Every piece of jewelry, dress, and accessory had an accompanying image/primary source. I joke that I cried during this whole thing, but in a way I did; between reading books and staring at online resources, I never blinked!


I hope this post sparks a conversation about primary sources, visual images, and how we perceive our research process. We must keep in mind that the fruit of our research is on usually on display, whether it's live at an event or in a picture shared on the internet. We make a huge impact on how people view history, especially children.

And if I might add, The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s still has spots available! We have a large selection of workshops and fantastic seminars by amazing people. Primary sources are very important, and you will see many represented there. If you're looking for a good place to learn with very kind people, please join us! You can register here online.

Remember:

Learning is a lifelong process.
There are new discoveries about the past all the time.
A progressive mindset makes for amazing living history!

~Kristen

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