These past couple weeks I’ve been lucky enough to get to go visit and hang out with the Gallery Educators and various other staff and friends at the Museum of the American Revolution. I’ve been exponentially excited to attend the opening ceremony yesterday at the MoAR, which kept us busy running around Old City, Philadelphia and the museum itself, all day. I wanted to write some thoughts about the trip since and my reenacting experience since I’ve had my good friends write about their experiences in history on the 17th Regiment of Infantry blog I thought I’d share mine.
Ever since I was little I loved exploring museums. I was the weird child of the family who liked looking at the paint strokes in the oil paintings and learning about who made them. Though having to say I haven’t retained any of the information, I still greatly enjoyed the experience of just going somewhere new. I found a love for history when my family and I took a trip down to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia for the first time, and fell in love with the history and the time period of the American Revolution. The idea of the people dressed in funny clothes of a different time and sharing their stories and the lessons they had to share was simply magical to a young child. It was eye opening to discover more than just beyond the text book and to interact with the buildings, walking the streets and the corridors that I thought our ancestors had walked, and to this day it is still remarkable to me that places like this still exist. We can still feel that connection to the past and be nostalgic for a while. It allowed me to pretend and escape. The following family trip down to Williamsburg we discovered the world of reenacting. Not only were all the staff dressed in funny clothes but there were other people sitting around a campfire on the grounds of the park with white tents pitched everywhere.
I don’t remember much from that particular trip, but what I do remember is walking the park grounds at night smelling the burning fires wanting to hear what the reenactors had to say too. And I wanted to be apart of it. Flashing forward, I started volunteering at special events at Hope Lodge in Fort Washington, PA where my dad and I found our first reenacting group and made instant friends with the people involved. Now as a young adult and in an entirely new reenacting unit that I’ve been so proud to be apart of, I still find something magical about history nearly every day and every conversation I have. The lessons do not stop after you stop taking history classes in college. The research continues, and the friendships grow. I feel like I’ve just been so lucky to meet all of my best friends through reenacting and sharing the general love of history and teaching it to the public through personal experiences and research hoping to make an impression in young children through out our time in this hobby.
On April 19th 2017, I was invited back to the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, PA for the Grand Opening Ceremony. My friends of the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, NJ and I all arrived at 7:00 am at Washington’s Square Park for the start of the day as the gang prepared to march to Independence Hall and than onward for the rest of the Ceremony at the museum plaza. It was definitely an experience to be excited for and I feel like I keep repeating myself when I say how excited and thrilled I was to be there to witness a most memorable event. On that beautiful day we got to see two performances by the original cast member of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, Sydney James Harcort, and Students from the High School for the Creative and the Preforming Arts Center which was phenomenal, as well as several speeches with an astounding final speech from Former Vice President Joe Biden, which had brought tears to the eyes. The powerful words that Vice President Biden had said had just summed up the whole reason why many of us feel the need to dress and research and share our love of history with our local historic museums. He summed it up when he finished with saying;
“… Folks… This is an important, not monument, but reminder, that we have to fight every damn day to remind ourselves how we got to where we are. Don’t ever think that there’s ever anything self-executing about Democracy. It lives in this museum, in every movement, of every child whose going to walk through this door… and believes that he or she can do anything. Why? Because we’re American. Why? Because we hold these truths self-evident. Why? Because it’s all about the consent of the governed. That’s what makes us different. That’s what makes us special….”
I found the speech heartwarming and enlightening as it gave me something to think about as I toured the gallery for a second time and something that I will always think about when I am personally giving tours at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation Museum, and when I talk and greet visitors from around the world. It is important to showcase what we’ve learned from being an American and what history has taught us through our years of being alive. It is not only important to represent ourselves as best as we can but our units and the history behind them, and the historic place where we happen to be hosted. Every historic landmark has a story, and it is important to represent all sides of the story. The Museum of the American Revolution is the embodiment of this and is everything that I every wanted a museum to be. Though it is not in an old historic building, it demonstrates the ability to be flexible in a new environment. The museum tells many stories from all parts of the American Revolution in a consecutive line where you can read all the panels like an interactive book. I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am to represent history in the way that can be so immersive, you can almost forget it’s not actually 1776. My friends and I agree that the museum is everything that we wanted it to be. It lives up to the hype and you had best believe that it took us about 3 hours to get through everything. I feel so appreciative knowing that I have so many friends that helped make that museum possible and are continuing to do so. I’m so pleased to live in the back yard of a city that means so much to me. I feel so lucky to know these people and it may sound like I’m repeating myself again, but I just want to make sure I really get the point across. It is surreal to be apart of this historic occasion.