My Grandma used to say that there were only two days in the year: Christmas and 4th of July. I laughed then, as I knew that it was supposed to be a joke, but now I understand that she was only half-kidding. The 2021 museum season flew by; and though it seems like only yesterday that it was opening day, we closed two weekends ago. An entire summer and another season, number 8 for me, gone, in the blink of an eye and the turn of a calendar page.
Back in March when I began my blogging (and social media) hiatus, we were right on the cusp of the brand new season. I had just accepted the position of Manager of Community Lifeways, and hit the ground running. From May to the beginning of October, it felt like a marathon with special events and after-hours programs just about every weekend, as well as field trips and tour groups to round out daily interpretation. With general admission closed down for the remainder of the year, we can finally catch our breath - so it seems fitting to take a little time to reflect upon all of the excitement and to recap the whirlwind of the 2021 museum season!
|Weaving on the counterbalance barn loom at the Humphrey House|
I was hired as a historical interpreter in 2014, and have since worn a couple of hats, including a costuming intern (2014-15) and the Interpretation Office Assistant (2016-2019). It was an honor to be asked to return in a new role, as the Manager of Community Lifeways, for the 2021 museum season, which is number 8 for me. In this position, I am responsible for overseeing and developing interpretive programming; creating themed and select after-hours events; managing the shared team of historical interpreters and volunteers across the village; and other collaborative efforts across the interpretation department. I am also actively advocating for sitewide diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion advancements, and have already drafted and presented several documents to the CEO, Senior Director of Interpretation, and DEAI committee members for consideration and implementation.
|2021 Weaving Project at the Humphrey House:|
A reproduction "dog track" overshot coverlet for the Jones Farmhouse
1) Historical Houses, featuring stories and activities centered around daily, 19th-century life and experience: these include the Humphrey House (1790s-1830s, weaving demonstrations); Foster-Tufts House (1830s, with three, rotating themes on birth, marriage & death); MacKay House (1830s); Hyde House (1870s); and Hamilton House (1870s)
2) Business, which were instrumental to any settlement and growing town: the Altay General Store (1850s); Hosmer's Inn (1830s); Dressmaker Shop (1820s-30s); and Tailor Shop (1850s)
3) Textile Arts Programs: this includes the spinning, weaving (see the 2021 weaving project, above), dressmaking, and tailoring programs.
4) Historic Dining Programs: this includes the popular, historical dinner programs (MacKay and Hosmer Dinners - unique dinning experiences that serve 3 or 4 course fares, respectively, from period receipts (called recipes, today), complete with first-person entertainment and a private tour of the village by lantern-light); as well as other period luncheon, tea, and dessert programs.
My position also oversees select children's games & entertainment programs; staffing select education programs; and some office administrative work. I also tried to staff buildings in the village 1-2 days a week to keep my interpretation skills in current practice, and enjoyed regularly demonstrating both weaving and flax processing regularly throughout the summer.
|In the summer months, I gave a timed talk called "From Plants to Pants" |
and regularly demonstrated flax processing for visitors
2021 Museum Season
My first weekend back was actually in March, which deserves an honorary mention in the season recap! It was during the second week of the annual Maple Sugar Festival, and I spent the day demonstrating tallow (beef fat) candle making:
|Tallow candles in various stages of completion|
|Spring Dinners at Hosmer's Inn|
This Spring's Bill of Fare was specifically selected to reflect the MacKay's personal reminiscences of settling the early Genesee Country, as well as their family's proud Scottish heritage. Traditional Scottish dishes, like freshly-baked barley rolls and potatoe rock, two ways (sweet and savory), were served alongside dressed asparagus, spring fruit (rhubarb) soup, and a variety of seasonal pickles and preserves.
For the main course, stewed trout, stuffed, in a white wine-butter sauce, was appropriately plated, as John MacKay himself reminisced on how "abundant" and "comparatively tame" the trout were when he first settled in Caledonia in 1803. According to John MacKay: "When we wanted [trout], we used frequently to catch them with our hands as they lay under the roots of the cedar trees that grew along the banks. There would be occasionally one weighing as high as three pounds." (Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase by Orsamus Turner):
|Stewed trout, stuffed, in a white wine-butter sauce|
As for the dessert course, almond maids of honor (tarts) decorated with candied lilacs were arranged at the center of the tables on towering glass cake stands. Footed glass dishes were filled with crystallized ginger, candied orange peel, walnuts, and comfits; and hot coffee and tea were poured into delicate china teacups for the guests returning from their private tour of the village:
|Candlelight dessert course: almond maids of honor, crystalized ginger, candied orange peel, walnuts, and comfits|
We really have a wonderful historical dinner team, and I'm thrilled to get to work with each and everyone of them! Especially Ariana, my museum-twin, who could run these dinners with her eyes closed - here she is busy lighting tapers with both hands:
|Lighting fresh tapers for the dessert course|
|Working wear for Hosmer Dinners!|
|Juneteenth living history scene featuring: (from left to right) Sharon, Andy, Cheyney, and Noah.|
|A toast to freedom!|
It was such a pleasure to spend time some time with Cheyney again - and to call her friend, champion, and interpreter advocate means the world to me:
|Once a weaver, always a weaver!|
July - cue the fireworks! For our 4th of July and Independence Day celebration, I made a patriotic apron and marched in the village parade:
|Marching in the Independence Day parade around the village square!|
Photograph by Ruby Foote, museum photographer.
|I finally got to wear my candy-pink striped, sheer summer dress |
complete with a new, patriotic apron and silk parasol!
The following week was Virtual History Camp at The Castle, a historic house museum in Marietta, Ohio! I had the privilege of presenting a session called: "That Chinese Girl": How Mamie Tape Won the Right to Go to School
|Tape Family Portrait, including (L-R) Joseph, Emily, Mamie, Frank, and Mary Tape, 1884-85.|
Image in public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
The next two weekends at our museum were busy with back-to-back special events! The first weekend was Celebrating Chocolate weekend throughout the village; followed by the first Civil War Living History weekend, which took the place of the usual battle reenactment. We were joined by public historian, Marvin-Alonzo Greer, who can be found on Instagram @magthehistorian. He is a wealth of knowledge and an excellent speaker, as well as just being lovely to meet in person. Both David Shakes, who portrays Fredrick Douglass, and Fritz Klein as President Abraham Lincoln, returned, and were greeted with a full house, or rather Brooks Grove Church - not an empty seat in sight!
|A conversation between Fredrick Douglass (David Shakes) & President Lincoln (Fritz Klein)|
presented to a crowd in Brooks Grove Church, during the Civil War Living History Weekend.
|Judy demonstrating red work embroidery -|
these blocks were the beginning of a reproduction quilt, which she's since finished!
|Balmoral petticoat display at the MacKay House, featuring both a reproduction red wool petticoat and fashion plates.|
|Dress display: the reproduction Balmoral petticoat was on loan from the gallery, |
while the dress, coat and accessories were made/sourced by me.
And last, but not least, there was a fashion show! "All Dressed in Red" featured red-colored fashions from the 19th century, modeled by live models (many thanks to Carly, Rhonda, and Janus Mary), or displayed on dress forms. I had to make a new 1810s dress, of course, and am pleased with the results. The fabric is a soft cream and orange stripe with little, red flowers, and the design features short, puffed sleeves (that will eventually have detachable long sleeves). To complete the look, I wore a frilly chemisette to fill in the neckline and coral jewelry to emphasize the red theme!
|All Dressed in Red Fashion Show: (from left to right) 1800s half robe, 1810s day dress, 1830s (Carly),|
1840s/early-1850s (Rhonda), 1860s with a Balmoral petticoat, and 1870s (Janus Mary, on Sunday only).
August - The month began with managing the after-hours Ghost Stories tours, which for me was mostly remembering to set props, sneaking around to light candle lanterns (at least 15k steps a night), and unlocking and relocking buildings. The guides were the stars of the program!
|Kaela in the Dressmaker's Shop: featuring silk, and its uses in ladies' clothing & accessories|
(Kaela, my friend, it was such a pleasure to see you again!)
|The set-up for my "From Plants to Pants" talk & flax processing demonstration|
September - Somehow it was Fall, and September brought both the Hop Harvest Festival and The Whirl, which is our museum's major, annual fundraising event. From all accounts, the Whirl was a wild success! I was one of the "pod captains" - playing hostess (mainly serving alcohol and chatting about museum programming) at the Foster and MacKay Houses - and, later in the evening, a "tour guide" for a candlelight stroll around the village.
|A photograph from the Whirl, via GCVMuseum on Facebook|
|Outfit for the event: including a brand-new chemisette and cap with whitework frills just for the occasion!|
As for the rest of September, the Fall Hosmer Dinners were completely sold out - again! This was five nights, over three weekends, featuring an elegant, 4-course dinner in the historic inn, served by characters from the Hosmer family. Some might say that there are characters on the historic dining team too...but I can neither confirm, nor deny the statement ;)
|A behind-the-scenes shot of Hosmer Dinner set-up|
...and I promise, with Ariana as my witness, I didn't spill a drop of the soup, Lori!
(Photograph courtesy of Lori)
|Fall Hosmer Dinners, a Tribute to Malinda Russell.|
|A sampling of the Fall Hosmer Dinner's "Bill of Fare":|
Glazed ham, a boiled whortleberry pudding with madeira sauce, and freshly-baked hop rolls.
(Image by Deanna, via GCVMuseum on Facebook)
|The dessert course featured a delightful lemon pie from Malinda Russell's A Domestic Cook Book,|
which was published in 1866 and considered to be the first authored by an African-American woman.
|Hosmer's Coffee House: serving a variety of seasonal beverages with a slice of historical cake!|
(Photograph via GCVMuseum on Facebook)
|Lauren Muney of Silhouettes By Hand was a visiting artist during the Agricultural Fair!|
|Double portraits and mirror images, freehand cut by Lauren Muney, |
left side on a white background and right on cream.
|My portrait, freehand cut by Lauren Muney|
|Selling fresh apple cider and historical cakes at the MacArthur House during Apples, Apples, Apples themed day - |
We went through 12 gallons of apple cider!