Travel destinations have evolved over the past century. Pilgrimages go back centuries to destinations, usually with religious significance, such as Jerusalem, Mecca, and Santiago. Over the past half century, curators of places of history have added to security guards and maintenance crews, historical interpreters. The places have gone from destinations to experiences. Some interpreters engage in crafts, trades, and tasks from a specific era. Other interact with viewers to explain how people lived at that time. Another method is for the interpreters to portray events through scripted or improvised scenes to those touring. All of these fill out the concept of Living History. An excellent location for living history of the colonial period of the USA is the historical Triangle of Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Jamestown Settlement. These cover from the 17th through the 18th century.
We have brought Linda’s family to the Historic Triangle for several days. We began our exploration at the Jamestown Settlement. This is a reproduction of the life in and near the settlement, placed geographically just up the James River from the Historical Jamestown archeological site. The Jamestown Settlement is divided into the museum displays, a Powhattan Village, the Ships, and James Fort. This is actually our third visit to the museum since it opened ten or so years ago. Each time, we have seen more structures being worked on, by hand, using the tools and methods available to the personnel of the Virginia Company.
The living historians wear period clothing and engage in period tasks. Some events may be mostly demonstration, but they will also engage visitors in trying their hand at tasks. Most are passionate and knowledgable about their post. Ask a few questions and enjoy responses as long as you have to chat. While on one of the ships, I went down below as the group before returned to deck. I was alone with the interpreter for several minutes. Rather than the routine spiel, I asked him about the purpose of the cannon on a merchant ship. He provided a better understanding of our merchant and naval vessels were constructed and used 400 years ago, and how they would easily be used for either transporting good, raiding other nations colonies, or engaging in sea battles.
To add another element of history for our nephew and niece, we happen to have visited the Muscarella Art Museum at the College of William and Mary. They had a gallery of sketches by Michelangelo. Several of these were architectural drawings for buildings in Florence and Rome, completed in the 16th century. So, while sitting at a table in the James Fort reproduction, looking up at hand-hewn beams, fastened with wooden pegs, we considered what Michelangelo had drafted one hundred years before the settlers erected this style of shelter.