Friday, July 8, 2016

The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s: A New Midwest Conference

Here I am, dusting off this old keyboard. Ha! I've actually been doing quite a bit, but the blog has been put aside. For trips. For Greenfield Village. For family. For a conference!

March 24-26 2017, Monroe Michigan

You've probably seen me share this on Facebook, at one point or another. I've mentioned the soiree or class topics, accompanied by a link to the page. On a very basic level, people are starting to hear about this. But now I need to go into depth. A deep sort of depth, a profound yawning. Tighten your corsets/braces, because it's about to get real!

What is this conference about anyway?

Our Mission
To organize The Citizen’s Forum of the 1860s to provide educational speakers and workshops for men, women, and teen Civil War reenactors, along with vendors who offer quality reenacting goods. We will create a welcoming environment for sharing knowledge and personal growth as a living historian.

I'd like to start by saying this conference is for everyone. Not just me, who is oddly obsessed with jewelry and hole-y paper. We want anyone who is interested in history to be able to walk into the room and feel welcome. Note that we said teen-I'll return to that later. Our educational offerings are meant to appeal to a large audience, from our lovers of mourning to bibliophiles. All will give documentation for further study, which is important when contributing research to the community as a whole. 

So there's a cool conference. 
What kind of stuff will be going on?

There will be so much to do! Friday night we are holding a period soiree at The Historic Sawyer Homestead. We have reserved the entire house for our amusements, which will include games, dancing, and food. I love everything about this conference, but if you know me, you really know that 
I love food.

The 19th Century block carriage step is still there too

During the day we will be holding some awesome workshops. Glenna Jo Christen plans to magically twirl her needle to make aprons, while Ken Giorlando, of Passion for the Past, will help refine a working impression (he convinces me to wear a runaway bonnet, so he's good at this!). Oh, and if you sign up early enough, there is a totally free research trip to the Clements Library in Ann Arbor. I have a separate blog post planned for the library!

And all that is just Friday. Here's a more complete list of the seminars/workshops:

  • In a Family Way: Pregnancy in the 1850-60s

  • Matching: A Retrospective Exhibition of American Civil War Era Wedding Photographs

  • Oh Good Grief; History of Mourning Practices

  • Doll Basics 101- 1850-1865

  • Warm Weather Wear for Men

  • 19th Century Entertainment for Children/Adults

  • Making Young People Feel Welcome at Events

  • Creating a Male Impression

  • Civil War Collections at The Clements Library

  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Joseph Holt and the Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators

  • Lunch/Dinner: Not a seminar, but still really important

While all of this thoughtful learning takes places, we will have a juried vendor area. And designated shopping times! So learning doesn't interfere with shopping. Or vice versa, depending on your perspective of things...

Finally, we will have a museum of items, material culture from the 19th century. Clothing belonging to men/women/young people will be there to see. Jewelry, punch paper, housewives, all sorts of bits and pieces that give you more of a feel of the time period. It can be overwhelming to have this stuff bunched together in one place; we have a faster, more tech easy/savvy to help everyone learn. I'll give you more information when I have better pictures to explain it!
Apples: Our first defense against technology

Anticipate food, prize drawings, and at least one Kristen panic moment (WHERE IS MY CAR?). Expect to meet some pretty amazing Michigan people. From what I've gathered from our registration so far, expect to meet amazing Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia people too. Really, just plan on hanging out with cool humans in general.

How will this conference impact the reenacting community as a whole?

This is a good question, that needs a serious answer. 
What seems to be one of the biggest complaints about reenacting? (Besides 90 degrees or our magical fake fires)? A lack of young people to participate.

I hear this often in many of the groups: young people are few and far between. Our demographic often consists of small children or middle age to older adults. How can we keep children interested enough to continue? What will attract young people to hang out in wool or corsets? Here it is:


Bring them in as members of the group, not just playthings in the background. Value their thoughts, highlight their success. Take the headstrong under your wing for future leadership roles. I don't want to say too much here, because this is my topic for the conference. In any case, if you're looking for ways increase your youth membership, civilian and military, attend this conference.
Hint: They do not grow on trees

Oh, and we have a discounted registration for teens. Speaking of registration...

Alright, sounds like fun.
Now tell me how much it will cost...

Here's a transparent breakdown of (1) adult registration. 

Registration: $110
Hotel 3 nights (optional): $180
Workshops (optional): $45
Teen accompanying you (optional?): $45

Add in a bit of fuel/food, and this entire educational experience will cost less than $500. We wanted to create an educational opportunity that can reach a large audience from different areas. And that $45 for teen registration is not a typo. We want to give an incentive to bring young people! Here are a few situations I've already seen pop up in just the short time we've published this conference:

-A Grandma has been looking for a way to connect with her granddaughter.
-An intelligent 15 year old boy wants to learn more about the Lincoln assassination.
-The teenage daughter of a reenactor has a mind for learning, and will contribute greatly.
-A few rough and tumble military kids will learn some proper civilian behavior.
-One little girl plans to open her own shop one day, and wants to research!

Maybe it's just the teacher in me, but hearing about these genuinely interested young people gives me such hope. Hope that when I retire, I'll be attending events run by these same kids. 
And when she gets an ego, I'll remind her that she took a bath in a bucket

Another thing. The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s is a non-profit organization, meaning that we don't intend to have any profit. We will be supporting the Historic Sawyer Homestead, and possibly other historic sites in the area. Education and community support are greatly intertwined!

In Conclusion...

We hope to see you there! I'll be posting more as the date draws near. In the meantime, you can like our Facebook page to receive updates:

Online registration is available too, with more information on the actual conference website:

While we still have the better part of year before the conference, space in certain workshops is limited. I hope you have an awesome 2016 season; stay safe and embrace history!


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