This is a listing of selected public sites that feature first-person interpretation as part of their daily or weekly programming. It is compiled and maintained by Stacy Roth, author of Past Into Present: Effective Techniques for First-Person Historical Interpretation. (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1998). This list came into being as an appendix of that work.
This web page formerly resided at www.voicenet.com/~frstprsn/ALHFAM/fpsites.htm.
Voicenet ceased operations as a web hosting service
in late 2012.
There are many more sites with first-person programs out there, and countless other locations that sponsor roleplay-enhanced special events, museum theater, and occasional first-person scenarios, reenactments, and character appearances.
For occasional tweets about first-person interpretation and living history events, follow me @PastIntoPresent on Twitter or follow this link: Follow @PastIntoPresent
HAVE YOU READ THIS PAGE AND FOUND IT USEFUL? If so, please drop me a note at the above email address. It will give me the impetus to maintain and update it.
Should your site be included on this list, too?
You can send a listing to Stacy via email composed in a style similar to existing entries. Please include contact information and details about the first-person programs, such as the format, program availability, characters portrayed, etc. Provide a current site web address if known.
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED to keep this list accurate and up to date -- and to showcase first-person interpretation and museum theater around the world. Listings that include a note to update are in particular need of attention.
Entries are welcome from site staff or from visitors to sites.
As an editorial choice, entries for museums and/or programs of note that have ceased will remain on the list. It is a historical record of their existence and a testimony to some very fine programs that have inspired many visitors. Their status is noted in the description.
Attribution is noted for changes and additions. Please include your name and site affiliation (if applicable).
Astor's Beechwood (First-Person
Program relocated in 2010. See comments.)
580 Bellevue Ave.
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
(telephone number removed)
It is not every day that one is treated like a member of the social elite, but that is how all callers are welcomed to Beechwood, the 1890's summer cottage of Caroline Astor. Actors portraying the Astor family, servants, and upscale friends, guide visitors through the estate, meeting Upstairs and Downstairs characters along the way. The site and its staff are also available for teas, private parties, holiday events, and murder mysteries. (The preceding from 1998 description of my visit.) According to information on the website (April 2010), the interpretive staff evolved into the Beechwood Theater Company, and the primary focus these days is murder mysteries.
Latest Update: April 4, 2012: NewportRI.com reports in "Beechwood's Owner has Museum Plan" (1/5/12 and
1/26/12) that Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle, purchased Beechwood in January 2010 and is turning it into a exclusive Art Museum and
restoring the estate and grounds to its 1881 appearance. Ellison's lawyer
comments that Beechwood's special events (referring
to site rental functions such as weddings and proms) were "a thorn in the
side of the neighborhood." Ellison is the third wealthiest person in the
US, according to the article. So the 1% reclaims its domain. Ah well. Museum
Theater may have been shown the door, but the Beechwood
Theater company refashioned itself Newport Murder Mystery and now
hires itself out to many mansions, museums, theaters, and other venues
throughout the region. (Updated by SFR, 4/4/2012.)
Barkerville Historic Town
P. O. Box 19
Barkerville, British Columbia, Canada V0K 1B0
Telephone (250) 994-3302; (250) 994-3332
Restored 1870's gold mining community with over 140 structures, including
interpretive sites, commercial shops, theater, and restaurants. Characters
include local figure Judge Begbie, gold miners, dance
hall girls, laundresses, gamblers, and merchants. Visitors can also meet a
guest of the local game guide at one 1900 home. (1998) (Link updated, April
1840 House, Baltimore City Life Museums Closed in 1997. Remains here for reference only -- in honor of a great program. Read about the evolution of the museum theater program "Steps In Time" in this 1995 History News article by Dale Jones, "Living History in the City:" http://www.makinghistoryconnections.com/docs/Living History in the City.pdf
800 East Lombard St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
Telephone: (410) 396-8395
Reconstructed 1840 row house of
Irish immigrant and wheelright John Hutchinson.
Interpretation features dramatic scenes about the Hutchinson family, their
friends, their African-American servants, and other historical characters.
Themes include racial relations, urban issues, economic struggles, health and
illness, and domestic life. (This link updated 7/12/2010.)
Benjamin Franklin House
36 Craven St.
London, UK WC2N 5NF
+44 (0) 207 925 1405
The Benjamin Franklin House, in central London, is the world's only remaining home of the great American inventor, philosopher, diplomat, and statesman, Benjamin Franklin. For nearly sixteen years between 1757 and 1775, Franklin resided in this c1730 dwelling. Now a museum, the Benjamin Franklin House features a science center where visitors can explore Franklin’s inventions, a research facility, and a “Historical Experience” that employs museum theater techniques.
From the website:
“The main character in the Historical Experience is Polly Hewson, daughter of Franklin's landlady who became a 'second daughter' to Franklin. Accompanied by Polly, who assumes visitors are there to see Franklin on his last night in London when he had to leave or risk arrest, the visitor experiences a sense of the complexity of the man and the times in which he lived: food, health, botany, and daily living in the basement kitchen; social and personal relationships, musical inventions and political tension on the ground floor; scientific work, political triumphs and woes, and a hurried return to America in the face of the looming War of Independence on the first floor.
This dramatic tapestry, featuring the words of Franklin, removes the traditional distance between museum and visitor, bringing a sense of the urgency and innovation that characterised his life in Britain. It reveals Franklin's intertwining of experimentation with personal and social responsibility, illuminating the Age of Enlightenment he helped to create.”
Museum of Civilization (First-Person/Museum
Theater program discontinued August 2011)
100 Laurier St.
Hull, Quebec, Canada J8X 4H2
Telephone: (819) 776-7000
The CMC has its own resident theater company, Dramamuse, which
develops and presents live interpretation programs that accent the museum's
collections and galleries. The company has a repertoire of short plays,
sketches, and spontaneous characters who mingle and converse with visitors. The
Museum's Canada Hall exhibition gallery has life-sized reconstructions of
various historical environments. Visitors to the Hall encounter characters such
as a Basque whaler, and innkeeper from 18th century New France, a voyageur,
shanty cook, shop merchants, or a Victorian maid. The historical interactive
characters offer three presentations per day, Tuesday through Saturday during
the summer. See the Dramamuse, schedule for details. The techniques of
Dramamuse has evolved since its inception in 1989.
The first phase consisted of scripted plays (1989-1992); the second phase
featured improvisational interactive characters (1993-2001); and the third
phase combined the two techniques into what the CMC calls "hybrid
theatre" -- scripted scenes with opportunities for interaction. Read about
the history of Dramamuse HERE.
(Updated by SFR from CMC website, 7/13/2010.) NEWS: The
Canadian Museum of Civilization announced in August 2011 that it will disband Dramamuse due to budgetary restrictions. What an incredible
loss of a unique program. One can still see scenes performed by Dramamuse on Youtube. (Updated
Cincinnati History Museum
1301 Western Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45203
Telephone: (800) 733-2077 or (513) 287-7000
The CHM has five indoor gallery environments that incorporate interactive
first-person interpreters. They are a 1770 Native American village; an 1828
flatboat; 1791 hunters camp; a World War II homefront
exhibit that features a full kitchen, living room, and train station;and a recreation of
downtown Cincinnati's public landing in 1859. The last includes the Queen of
the West steamboat and a row of shops such as a millinery, pork merchant, and
coffee house. Visitors may meet, for example, trader John Anderson in the 1770
village, flatboat passengers Johann and Henrietta Utz,
Irish coffee house owner Hannah Finn, or steamboat captain Richard Wade at
their corresponding exhibits. (Link updated, April 2010)
Claude Moore Colonial Farm
6310 Georgetown Pike
McLean, Virginia 22101
This working farm portrays a regular tenant farm family living in the year 1771. Visitors are treated as new friends or neighbors dropping by to visit, and are invited to help with the chores. Crops include tobacco, corn, wheat, rye, and flax, plus a large vegetable garden. Livestock include hogs, cattle, geese, turkeys, and chickens. (Added by Katie Cannon, 7/10/2010)
Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776
Telephone: (800) HISTORY
The lives and times of 18th century Virginians, from slaves and servants to
the political elite, are portrayed at this well-known restored and
reconstructed Colonial capital city. A variety of first-person formats are
offered daily, including dramatic scenes; improvised interactive conversations;
scenarios; re-creations of rituals, entertainments, and events; participatory
trials; and full-length theatricals. The interpretive centerpiece to a daily
visit is Colonial Williamsburg's two-day "Revolutionary
City" series. Scripted theatrical scenes chronicle the downfall of
Lord Dunmore's royal government on one day, followed by a series of scenes on
day two highlighting the ways that citizens of Williamsburg reacted during the
war itself. Other presentations and scenes throughout the day refer to the
events explored in the daily theme. Visitors have opportunities to meet and
question interpreters portraying famous historical figures such as Thomas
Jefferson and Patrick Henry, as well as lesser known individuals such as slave
preacher Gowan Pamphlet, and various townspeople,
slaves, and performers. The calendar of activities is available HERE.
(Updated by SFR from CWF website. 7/14/2010.)
13400 Allisonville Rd.
Fishers, IN 46038-4499
Telephone: (800) 866-1836
Conner Prairie commemorates the life and times of William Conner, who established a trading post in Central Indiana and became a prominent citizen and political figure. In the 1930s Eli Lilly purchased and developed Conner's land, creating a base for a historic attraction and commemorations. In the 1970s, Prairietown, a recreated 1836 village, invited the public to meet the (fictional composite) families of characters who populated the area, among them a weaver, doctor, schoolmaster, potter, storekeeper, and Revolutionary War veteran. CP broke ground with the introduction of controversial programs, such as an 1836 funeral and the portrayal of a few unsavory characters. They continued the innovative trends with a participatory program -- "Follow the North Star" -- in which visitors take on the role of fugitive slaves. There have been big changes at Conner Prairie since the 1990s as the site has diversified its programming to emphasize interactive experiences. There is now a greater variety of methods employed to appeal to the visiting public - but there is still plenty of first-person and museum theatre style interpretation to be found. Conner Prairie has taken great pains to train its staff (including the first-person interpreters) to engage visitors in ways that encourage comfort with participation in role, and sufficient orientation to maximize their experience. 1936 Prairietown is still a feature of site visits and "Follow the North Star" is still going strong. In 2012, an interactive 1863 "Civil War Journey" is added to the roster, inviting visitors to enlist in the Union forces to fend off raids by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his raiders. (Updated by SFR from CP website, 4/4/2012).
Fort Delaware State Park
45 Clinton St.
Delaware City, DE 19706
Telephone: (302) 834 -7941
Hours: Mid June-Early Sept.-Weds., Thurs., Fri.
Memorial Day-Labor Day: Weds-Sat and Holidays
Fort Delaware is a restored Civil War Confederate Prison located on Pea
Patch Island, accessible only by ferry. The site is staffed by interpreters
portraying Union officers, Confederate prisoners, and various other characters,
including soldiers, a blacksmith, an African-American blacksmith's apprentice,
cooks, an ordnance sergeant, a laundress, and Julia Jefferson, a local woman
who provides succor for inmates.
Leland C. "Lee" Jennings, Jr., Chief Historian of Cultural Affairs for the State of Delaware, first person interpreter of many periods, reenactor, and founder of the First-Person program at Fort Delaware, passed away suddenly of a heart attack on March 4, 2010. He will be sadly missed by his family, friends, Delaware State Parks (including Fort Delaware) colleagues, and the reenactment community. Rest in peace, old friend. (Updated by SFR, 7/12/2010)
Minneapolis, MN 55111
Telephone: (612) 726-1171
Open Saturdays in May and Tues.-Sat. from Memorial Day to Labor Day
Fort Snelling, constructed between 1819 and 1825 and named after its first
commander, Col. Joseph Snelling, was an army outpost and frontier trade station
at the intersection of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. As a hub of
frontier activity in 1827, the year portrayed in first-person at the site,
visitors can meet Col. Snelling and his family, soldiers of the 5th regiment,
traders, natives, servants, merchants, tradespeople, and travelers of various
origins and ethnicities. Special event scenarios include an Independence Day
celebration, the arrival of keel boatmen, and a fur trade rendezvous. (FIRSTHAND
OBSERVER OR STAFF UPDATE NEEDED.)
Fort Walla Walla
755 Myra Road, Walla Walla, WA 99362
Open year round. Living History programs run on weekends from April to October.
At Fort Walla Walla Museum, an artifact collection, restored buildings, and a Living History series (and other events and programs) tell the story of the many people who have inhabited the Walla Walla Valley. When Lewis and Clark traveled through the valley in 1806, Indian Tribal People still camped freely along its many creeks. By 1818 fur traders had established a post, and in the 1840s wagon trains were stopping at the Whitman Mission. Soldiers established the first military Fort Walla Walla in 1856 followed by settlers who built houses, businesses and churches. During a gold rush in the early 1860s, farmers, bankers, and businessmen prospered. The effects of the gold rush and a growing agricultural industry made Walla Walla the largest city in Washington Territory. Each weekend, from April to October, the museum features first-person presentations depicting the citizens of the Walla Walla Valley. The schedule is available at this link: http://www.fortwallawallamuseum.org/living-history.html . ((Added 9/5/2013)
Fortress Louisbourg National Historic Site
P. O. Box 160
Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, Canada B0A 1M0
Telephone: (902) 733-2630 (902) 733-2280
Open from mid-May to late October. Full living history staff from June 1 - Oct. 15.
Hours: 9:30am-5pm (see site for evening programs)
Two major invasions in 1745 and 1758 would cripple the French military
presence at Cape Breton Island's Fortress Louisbourg.
But in 1744, (the site's focus year) the walled town was a thriving seaport and
center of French trade and military strength. In 1961, the Government of Canada
began an impressive reconstruction of the walled fortress and many of its
shops, streets, and yards. Each summer, over one hundred interpreters portray
the full range of Louisbourg's inhabitants: from
fishermen, soldiers, bakers, servants, musicians and street vendors to the
leisured upper classes. A working environment of over three dozen structures
adds to the realism. The first-person program is supported by modern theme
centers, exhibits, restaurants, and other public services. Special ticketing
for murder mystery and dinner theater events. (URL and information updated by
SFR from website 4/3/2012)
P. O. Box 1041
Indianapolis, IN 46206
Telephone: (317) 631-1870
Freetown Village depicts the lives of free Black Indianapolis citizens in
the year 1870 (with some programs illuminating other eras). Founded in 1982,
Freetown Village staffed a permanent first-person exhibit at the Indiana State
Museum that ran from 1984 to 2001, featuring vignettes centered around a barber shop and seamstress establishment. A museum
without walls, the organization offers outreach programs and special events
such as dinners, weddings, and holiday celebrations. Each year, the Freetown
Village touring troupe creates an interactive play focusing on a particular
range of topics, such as health and healthcare in the community, discussed by
"villagers" Isaiah Cuffee and his wife
Sarah Elizabeth and others. Characters are fictional composites illustrating
the breadth of the African American community in post Civil
War Indianapolis. Freetown operates a summer camp. In addition to the touring
play, Freetown boasts a singing group (historical spirituals) and other
workshops. (Listing and URL completely updated by SFR from website, 4/3/2012)
George Ranch Historical Park
10215 FM 762
Richmond, Texas 77469
Telephone: (281) 343-0218
George Ranch Historical Park museum complex includes Henry Jones' 1830s
stock farm (a precursor of the "ranch"), the Victorian home of
banker/cattleman J. H. P. Davis, and a working 1930s cattle ranch built by
Mamie Davis and her husband Albert P. George. At the stock farm, roleplayers portray Henry and Nancy Jones and their
relatives and neighbors in 1830, usually while performing appropriate daily
activities. The Davis and George households are occasionally roleplayed in vignettes and for special events, the former
in 1896 and the latter in 1938. Each October, the complex holds a Market Days
festival evoking the wild trading days of 1820s Colonial Texas. UPDATE?
Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village
20900 Oakwood Blvd
Dearborn, MI 48121-1970
Telephone: (313) 982-6100
Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, founded by Henry Ford in 1929,
now covers 93 indoor and outdoor acres. In Greenfield Village, roleplayers are featured daily in the 1850's Eagle Tavern.
Year-round special event programming brings to life characters such as Henry
Ford, George Washington Carver and the Wright Brothers in scripted scenes and
interactive first-person interpretation provided by characters including a
holiday greens dealer, a lightning rod salesman and a schoolteacher. (Added
9/22/98 by Marty Brown.) UPDATE?
21899 County 118 Road
Preston, MN 55965
Historic Forrestville was once a thriving trade center until 1868, when the railroad bypassed the town. As commerce contracted, life in the community centered around the Meighen family, descendants of the town's founder. Approximately 50 folks worked for the Meighens in their home, farm and store. Visitors to the site will encounter members of the Meighen family and their employees in the year 1899. Open Memorial Day Weekend through late October. (Added 4/29/12 by SFR from website.)
Multiple sites throughout the Historic District of Philadelphia (and Valley Forge National Historic Park)
Historic Philadelphia is an organization that encompasses and manages historical interpretive programs and related activities throughout the historic district of Old City Philadelphia and Valley Forge National Historic Park. Roleplay and Living History activities fall under the purview of "Once Upon A Nation," which coordinates the area's historical interpreters, actors, and storytellers. Locations featuring roleplay, playlets, and vignettes include the Betsy Ross House at 3rd and Arch Sts. (where visitors can meet Betsy), the Independence Visitors Center at 6th and Market Sts., and the Free Quaker Meeting House at 5th and Arch Sts. Programs and special events -- such as a chat with the "Crypt Keeper" at Christ Church -- are held at other locations as well. A special ticketed evening tour of Independence Hall (including dinner at City Tavern) features "eavesdropping" on some of the founding fathers as they debate the founding of the Declaration of Independence. There's MUCH going on. A full schedule of all activities in the historic area is produced monthly and available from the website. (Added 7/8/2012 by SFR from website)
Historic St. Mary's City
18559 Hogaboom Lane,
St. Mary's City, MD 20686
Telephone: (800) 762-1634 (240) 895-4990
Historic St. Mary's City is the recreated first capital of Maryland. established by Governor Leonard Calvert in 1634.
Interpreters in recreated 17th-century settings tell the stories of Maryland's
first years. Living History and First-Person activities are available seasonally,
from March through November. Outdoor exhibits include the reconstructed State
House of 1676, Smith's Ordinary, and the Godiah Spray
Tobacco Plantation, a working colonial farm. At the Woodland Indian Hamlet,
visitors discover how Maryland's native population interacted with English
colonists. Sailors' stories of the tobacco trade and immigration resound across
the deck of the Maryland Dove, a replica square-rigged ship. The Maryland Dove,
a 1680s coastal trading vessel (which on occasion sails to other ports, so
visitors are advised to call ahead. Special weekend events center on special
themes such as a militia muster or faire, 17th century agriculture, domestic
skills, and trades. (Updated 2/7/2011 from information on the museum's website.
It is difficult to tell from the wording if the Godiah
Spray Plantation still utilizes first-person interpretation, as it did in the
Historic Washington State
P.O. Box 129
Washington, AR 71862
Phone: (870) 983-2684
Historic Washington is a museum village dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the architectural and cultural history of Washington, Arkansas during the nineteenth century. The park’s amenities are nestled in a town that still functions with its own mayor, city council, and citizens. The town was incorporated in 1824 along the old Southwest Trail not far from the border of the United States and Mexico. The 1874 Hempstead County Courthouse serves as Visitor Center. Furnished antebellum homes include the Trimble House, The Crouch House, Royston Home, Purdom Home and Medical Exhibit, Sanders Home urban farmstead, B. W. Edwards Weapons Museum, Print Museum, Candle Shop, 1836 Hempstead County Courthouse (Confederate Capitol of Arkansas from 1863-1865), Royston Log House site, Abraham Block Home, and Blacksmith Shop rebuilt in 1960 on site of James Black’s Shop (Home of the Bowie Knife). Visitors can enjoy 10 program sites open daily 7 days per week excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Third-person tours and demonstrations of nineteenth century life are offered. First-person programs feature encounters with both high profile and common citizens of nineteenth century Washington. Characters include Betsy Carey, house slave to Simon Sanders, the County Clerk; Abraham Block, first Jewish settler to put down roots in Arkansas and one of the early Washington merchants; John Eakin, attorney, editor of the Washington Telegraph and Mayor of Washington during the Civil War; Mary Carrigan, a local woman who resided on a nearby plantation; and others offered on a rotating schedule. Special living history events include the "Civil War Woodswalk," an evening program that prompts visitors to place themselves in the role of refugees as they converse with Confederate soldiers at a recreated picket post near town, and "Trial By Jury," a reenactment of a local 1844 murder trial. (Added 2/7/2011, contributed by Billy Nations, Chief Interpreter at the site.)
Knott's Berry Farm
8020 South Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
Telephone: (714) 827-1776 (714) 220-5244 (Educational programs reservation number)
Knott's Berry farm is an enormous theme park, complete with a ghost town,
Native American presentation area, rides, and a "Peanuts"-themed
"Camp Snoopy." It also boasts a complete reproduction of
Philadelphia's Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was
debated and proclaimed. From Monday through Friday, walk-in visitors and
pre-scheduled tour groups can meet with Benjamin Franklin or Patrick Henry
(portrayed alternately by the same interpreter, Gene Collins). Despite the
glamour of the surroundings, Collins is reported to present convincing,
museum-caliber interpretation. UPDATE NEEDED.
Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site
R. R. #1, Box 172A
Lerna, IL 62440
Telephone: (217) 345-6489
Interpreters at the recreated home and farm of Abraham Lincoln's parents,
Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln, and the restored home and farm of progressive
farmer Stephen Sargent, portray the Lincoln family and their neighbors in the
year 1845. First-person programming is available daily during the summer and on
weekends during Spring and Fall. Special events
include a Sunday religious service, a wedding, and a visit by Abraham Lincoln
as a young lawyer. (URL added 4/3/2012)
Littleton Historical Museum
6028 South Gallup St.
Littleton, CO 80102
Littleton Historical Museum is a 14-acre farm complex that illustrates
typical homestead life in the South Platte Valley of the 1860s and 1890s.
Composite characters populate farmsteads from each period and bring to life an 1860s schoolhouse and 1903 blacksmith shop. (URL updated
4/5/2012) UPDATE NEEDED.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
103 Orchard St.
New York, NY 10002
Tired of touring homes of the rich and famous? How about shlepping
through restored tenement apartments from the 1870s (the Gumpertz
family), 1916 (the Confino family), 1918 (the Rogarshevsky family--in the midst of mourning a death from
tuberculosis), and the 1930s (the Baldizzi family)?
On weekdays, there are several performances of "Mantas and
Music," a first-person visit with Sephardic Jewish immigrant teenager
Victoria Confino, who discusses her family, life on
the Lower East Side, her cherished old country possessions and her new-fangled
gadgets, such as the Victrola. Visitors are projected into the role of
"greenhorns," new arrivals who are moving into a neighboring flat.
Reservation required for groups. (Address and phone updated 4/3/2012.)
Museum of the Moving Image (Closed 1999)
South Bank Arts Centre
Waterloo, London, SE1 8XT
Telephone: 0171 401 2636
MOMI's exhibits trace the history of animation, film, and television from
its roots to the present." Actor guides with appropriate historical dress
and demeanor are attached to selected galleries. Closed
in 1999, a website dedicated to its memory can be visited here. The
London Film Museum is filling
part of the gap left by the closing of MOMI, however first-person element is
unknown. (Updated 4/4/2012.)
Mystic, CT 06355
Telephone: (860) 572-0711
Mystic Seaport Museum houses seventeen acres of galleries, ships, boats, restored and recreated maritime buildings and exhibits. The Seaport's Roleplayers are featured several times per day at selected interpretive sites including the Sailor's Reading Room. Characters include a female doctor, a whaling captain's wife, sea captains, whalers and sailors. Storytelling is the primary roleplaying technique, employed very successfully. Mystic also has an active museum theater program. UPDATE?
3400 Bryan Point Road
Accokeek, MD 20607
Open daily, year round. Living "green" history programs run on weekends, March - December.
The National Colonial Farm at Piscataway Park demonstrates life on a late 18th century tobacco farm on the Potomac River. The historical structures include a historically registered tobacco barn, a replica outkitchen, smokehouse, and a reconstructed two-room farmhouse, Laurel Branch. The residents of Laurel Branch are a fictional composite family based on historical research into the life of a typical late 18th century tobacco farmer in colonial Southern Maryland. They include Mr. and Mrs. Bolton; their daughters Charity and Rebekah Bolton; Mrs. Bolton’s sister, Minnie; Bernard, an indentured servant; and an enslaved woman, Cate Sharper. The character of Cate Sharper is unique in that, while the Boltons are fictional, Cate was an actual person. It is rare to find an enslaved person referred to by name in the historical record; however, during our research on the family who actually lived and farmed on this site in the 18th century, we found mention of a slave woman named Cate. Using her real name is essential in telling her story, not only to provide historical context for the site but also to honor the memory of the millions of enslaved African Americans whose names and stories are unknown. Update sent 9/8/2015 by Anjela Barnes, Director of Marketing.
National Historic Oregon
Trail Interpretive Center
Baker City, OR 97814
Telephone: (541) 523-1843
NHOTIC's programs illustrate the lives and times of 19th century emmigrants who traversed the Oregon Trail through a variety
of first-person characters, scenes, and musical presentations. The Center
focuses on six themes related to westward migration and settlement: Pioneer
Life, Mountain Men and early Trail Travelers (including missionaries), Native
Americans, Natural History, Mining, and the General Land Office. FP is offered
daily in the summer, weekends otherwise. UPDATE?
Nevada City Living History Museum
Montana Heritage Commission
PO Box 338
Virginia City, Mt. 59755
First Person Programs Weekends late May to mid-September
The Nevada City Living History Museum is a restored 1863 Gold Mining Town
featuring over 108 furnished buildings located 1 ½ miles from Virginia City,
Montana on Hwy 287. A visit to Nevada City, Montana brings the history of early
Idaho & Montana Territory through first-person programs and 4th wall
presentations, which are featured on weekends from Memorial Day through mid-September.
First-Person Historic Characters include Captain James Williams, Vigilante
Executive Officer; William Palmer, saloon keeper; Anton Holter,
lumberman; Smoky Eberl, blacksmith; Miss MacNamara, school teacher; Mr. Johnson, "Cheap
Cash" store keeper; Miss Coburn, town laundress; Neil Howie, sheriff; and
townspeople Mollie Sheehan; Jack Slade Tom Cover, Bill Fairweather,
Long John Franks, and Honest Whiskey Joe. Evening lantern tours and "Past
meets Present" first-person programs offer an accurate picture of 1863-64
daily life and key historical events of that era in Alder Gulch. A program
schedule is available on the site web page. (Site added added
2/26/2008, updated 7/11/2010 and again 4/9/2012 by Dan Thyer,
Curator of Living History, Montana Heritage
Norlands Living History Center
290 Norlands Road
Livermore, ME 04253
Telephone: (207) 897-4366
Hours: Open by appointment and Tues. & Thurs. 11-4.
Although the Norlands was owned by the Washburn political dynasty, the living history focus of this working farm and schoolhouse site is the daily lives of the rural Pray and Waters families and their neighbors. Norlands offers a unique three-day live-in roleplay program aimed at teachers and others who want to "rough it" in 1870. Participants are assigned roles--which do not necessarily correspond to their age or gender--and maintain those roles throughout a chore-filled weekend. During July and August on Tuesdays and Thursdays, visitors can interact with first-person characters in the school house and mansion.
Legendary first-person interpreter and Norlands
Living History Center founder Billie Gammon passed away in January 2009 at the
age of 92. Billie developed the unique live-in roleplay
program at Norlands, startling visitors with the
character of Mercy Lovejoy, local pauper. Find out more about Billie's life
from this issue (Vol 12. Issue 1) of the Maine Archives and Museums Newsletter.
(This entry updated by SFR, July 12, 2010)
Ohio Historical Village
1982 Velma Ave.
Columbus, OH 43211
Telephone: (614) 297-2300
Ohio Historical Village, administered and located next to the Ohio
Historical Center, is a completely recreated Ohio village at the time of the
American Civil War. Structures in the village include a hotel, general store,
print shop, school house, doctor's house, Black freeman's house, tinsmith,
Soldier's Aid Society office, and farmhouse. On most weekends, visitors are
likely to walk into events such as a temperance meeting, literary society
meeting, or meet conversation-inclined first-person characters. A unique
feature of first-person at OHV is their choice to rotate the focus year
annually. One year it is 1861, the next 1862, and so forth. UPDATE?
Old Barracks Museum
Trenton, NJ 08608
Telephone: (609) 396-1776
The Old Barracks, originally constructed during the French and Indian War,
is restored to its appearance during the American Revolution when it was
utilized as a military hospital. First-person programs about the differences
between "patriots" and Loyalists, the activities of the hospital, and
the December 1776 battle of Trenton between General Washington's troops and
occupying Hessians are offered to school children and other groups by advance
registration. UPDATE NEEDED.
Old Cowtown Museum
1865 Museum Blvd.
Wichita, KS 67203
Telephone: (316) 219-1871
Old Cowtown's approximately three dozen relocated structures recreate two
blocks of time in Wichita's Anglo-American settlement. Its earliest days, 1865
to 1869, are reflected in the settlement agent's house, settler's cabin, and
Episcopal church. The rest of the site depicts Wichita
in the 1870s, including a business district full of storefronts, a railroad
depot, and a residential area. First-person, mostly planned scenarios and
scripted scenes, is a common feature on weekends, when family visitors might
encounter characters such as a sheriff, doctor, housewife, farmer, or cowboys
discussing the cattle trade, gun regulations, and other daily concerns. (Info
from 1998). According to the website (accessed 4/4/2012), there is an entire
"Old West Immersion Area" with first-person interpreters, occasional
museum theater in the form of Victorian melodrama, and cowboy storytelling.
Old Fort William
Vickers Heights Post Office
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada P0T 2Z0
Telephone: (807) 473-2344 (site) or (800)-667-8386 (Thunder Bay Tourism)
Old Fort William is a reconstructed headquarters of the North West Company,
established in 1798 near the Kaministiquia River. The
settlement became the center of the North American Fur Trade, a rendezvous
point for French voyageurs and Ojibway trappers. The interpretive focus year is
1815, the year before North West's takeover by the Hudson Bay Company.
Interpreters portray North West's owner William McGillivray, mapmaker David
Thompson, and assorted Natives (Ojibwa & Metis), voyageurs, artisans, and
company clerks. Visitors may converse with the many characters and participate
in scenarios and interactive drama. (Updated by SFR from website, 4/4/2012.)
Old Sturbridge Village
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road
Sturbridge, MA 01566
OSV is a collection of restored and recreated 18th and early 19th century
homes, farms, mills, trade shops, and public buildings that re-creates the
atmosphere of early rural New England in the 1830s.
Costumed staff primarily use third person techniques, but respond in the first person as appropriate (e.g. "who are you supposed to be?" or "what year is it?"). First-person interpreters appear at selected locations and are featured at scheduled programs such as "Tales of a Yankee Peddler" and special events such as re-created weddings. (Updated by Tom Kelleher, 7/12/2010)
P.O. Box 1620
Plymouth, Mass. 02362
Telephone: (508) 746-1622
Plimoth Plantation recreates the world of English
settlers--known to us today as "The Pilgrims"--and the Wampanoag
natives who also inhabit the western side of Cape Cod Bay. At the site's
"Pilgrim Village," first-person interpreters portray the original
inhabitants of Plymouth Colony ina
recreation of the settlement's two main streets, gardens, and fields as they
would have appeared in 1627. Three miles away, it is always March 1621 on board
a reconstruction of Mayflower, the ship that transported the "Congregation
of Saints" and their fellow voyagers, whom they referred to as
"Strangers," to the New World. Other interpretive features include
exhibits, a crafts demonstration center, and third-person Native American
Roanoke Island Festival Park
1 Festival Park
Manteo, NC 27954
Roanoke Island Festival Park offers a winding and wooded trail with historical stops along the way at the American Indian Town, the Settlement Site, and the Elizabeth II, a 16th century representative ship. Living history interpreters portray the sailors and soldiers who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1585 with the hope of establishing a permanent colony. These interpreters dress and speak the parts to offer visitors a glimpse into the past at the Settlement Site and onboard the Elizabeth II. Also at the park is the interactive Adventure Museum, with exhibits that portray over four hundred years of Outer Banks history. The sites at Roanoke Island Festival Park are offered daily from March through December. (Added by Tanya Young, Communication Manager Roanoke Island Festival Park, 7/12/2010.)
Sainte Marie Among the Iroquois
P. O. Box 146
Liverpool, New York 13088
Telephone: (315) 453-6767
According to the above article “There will be no reenactors. Instead, Mr. Tripoli, OHA’s executive director, said, a “high-tech, audio-visual experience with computerized touch-screens and compelling visual displays” will entertain and educate visitors.”
This is the former entry describing the former first-person program: “Sainte Marie Among the Iroquois, formerly known as Sainte Marie de Gannetaha, commemorates the two-year foray of Jesuit missionaries to establish a religious outpost amongst the Onondaga Nation, 1656-1658. A reconstructed mission is the background for first-person interpreters who portray actual priests, soldiers, and brothers in the year 1657, discussing the purpose of the mission, their perceptions of the Natives, comparisons between life in Old France and New France, and other aspects of life in the 17th century. The missions' "brothers" also demonstrate and discuss their secular labors, including blacksmithing, carpentry, and other domestic tasks. The Native American viewpoint is interpreted in a separate third-person area, currently under development.” (Entry updated 6/22/2015 from cited article and Skanonh Center website.)
Science Museum of London
South Kensington, London SW7 2DD
Telephone: 0171 938-8008/8080
Museum theater augments the museum's collections
and exhibits. The array of "Drama
Characters" (a combination of historical, composite, and whimsical
characters) add a live dimension to selected galleries. Visitors may meet a
Doctor Gripnerve (a 19th Century Quack), Marie Curie,
Engineer Isombard Kingdom Brunel, Aviatrix Amy
Johnson, Albert Einstein, Astronaut Yuri Gagarin, Florrie the Edwardian Maid,
and the world's first pregnant man. (Updated from website by SFR, 4/4/2012.)
Ballarat, Victoria 3350
Telephone: 03 5331 1944
The Victoria Gold Rush of the 1850s is the theme of Sovereign Hill, a
re-created mining village and exhibit center. Visitors tour an underground gold
mine, visit diggings where they can actually pan for gold, and wander through a
mining encampment, local Chinatown, and reconstructed street of functioning
historical shops. Although most of the live interpretation is in third-person,
dramatic scenarios between miners, camp followers, and other characters unfold
in the streets. Visitors have the opportunity to interact informally with the
characters, who linger in the area as each scene concludes.
Upper Canada Village (St. Lawrence Parks Commission)
RR #1 (11 Kilometers east of Morrisburg)
Morrisburg, Ontario, Canada K0C 1X0
Telephone: (613) 543-3704
Upper Canada Village is the resting place of over two dozen buildings that
were rescued and relocated from locations now under the waters of the Saint
Lawrence Seaway. These, augmented with several reproduction structures,
illustrate the daily life of a typical Ontario community in 1866, the year
prior to Canadian confederation. While many trades are depicted in
third-person, selected sites are staffed by first-person interpreters
portraying a Lutheran pastor, tavern keeper, household servant, newspaper
editor, and a Methodist Sunday school superintendent who is also the convener
of the Total Abstinence Society. The roleplayers also
interact as a group in special scenarios such as an Abstinence Society meeting.
307 East 2nd St.
Bloomington, IN 47405
Telephone: (812) 855-6224
Wylie House (constructed 1835) was the home of
Indiana University's first president, Andrew Wylie, and his family. Today, the
University owns and operates the home as an 1840s
historic house museum. Bonnie Williams, the site's curator, offers a
"ghost interpretation" portrayal of Wylie's adult daughter Elizabeth.
Other characters are available as staffing permits. Visiting groups must
request the program in advance. UPDATE NEEDED. Note: 4/4/2012: It is not
obvious from the listing of educational program listings on the Wylie House
website if this program is still offered.
Special thanks to Jack Gardner, Jim Powers, Harry Needham, Christopher Geist, and William Lawrence for their suggestions establishing the list in 1998.
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To visit Stacy F. Roth / History on the Hoof, go to www.historyonthehoof.com
Updated February 26, 2008, Revisions
started April 2010.
Updated again Sept. 5, 2013. Again, June 22, 2015. Latest update, September 8, 2015.