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According to The Alamo's website at:  http://www.thealamo.org/living_history.html

Definition of "Living History"
The term "living history" referrers to a method of interpreting the past through the use of a person or persons dressed in period clothing. The technique is usually enhanced by having the person or persons use period tools and engage in period activities.

Who are "Living Historians?"
The term is applied (as well as misapplied) to anyone who attempts to convey information about the past while dressed in period clothing. The term "re-enactor" is often used in place of living historian. It is important to note, however, that while living historians can "reenact," not all re-enactors make good living historians. Reenacting is actually a recreational pastime, carried on by individuals with an interest in history. Dressing in period clothing and engaging in period activities allows re-enactors to "experience" the past. Living historians, on the other hand, tend to be associated with museums and historical sites that specialize in interpreting the past through a format that allows visitors to visualize the past through the use of their senses. Living historians can also be dedicated private individuals who volunteer their talents and services to historical sites and as such are a valuable resource.

What does the term "first person" mean?
The term refers to a technique where a person takes on a historical persona and acts as if he or she was that person. The persona can be that of a well-known historical figure like Sam Houston or Abraham Lincoln. It can also be of an actual but unknown historical figure like a farmer or soldier. A generic persona based on actual historical figures can be effective "first person" impressions. Conversion with visitors or other interpreters are carried out using the pronouns "I" and "we." For example, "I told my constituents that they could go to hell and I'd go to Texas!" or "We built our cabin down by the spring." A person in true first person mode does not know anything about events or the world outside his or her historical timeframe.

What does the term "third person" mean?
Unlike in the case of first person interpretation, individuals using the "third person" do not leave the present time. Third person interpreters are essentially modern people dressed in period clothing, discussing the past with visitors or other interpreters. The clothing and other objects are used as tools to teach about the past. Conversion with visitors or other interpreters are carried out using the pronouns "he," "she," and "they." For example, "He told his constituents that they could go to hell and he'd go to Texas!" or "They built their cabin down by the spring." A person in third person mode knows about the modern world.

What does it take to be a successful living historian?
Knowledge and props. While this sounds simple, quality living history is extremely difficult and takes commitment and practice on the part of its practitioners. He or she must be familiar with all aspects of daily life of the time period to be interpreted. Additionally, knowledge of the historical events and important figures of the day is essential. The interpreter must also be familiar with clothing and other physical items (usually referred to as material culture) that are characteristic of his or her time period. Visitor can tell when interpreters are untrained or are using inauthentic items. They deserve the best that you and your site can provide.

How does living history work?
Living history requires interaction between the interpreter and visitor. This means that the interpreter must draw the visitor(s) into his or her world. As in other businesses, this is referred to as a "hook." While some visitors may approach the interpreter with a question, it is the interpreter's responsibility to initiate contact. It can be as simple as asking a question such as "Have you ever seen a long rifle before?" The key to success is making the visitor feel comfortable enough to want to stay and participate. Let them ask questions and make comments. Even though this is an educational experience, don't "lecture."

Interaction can be impromptu or scripted. Impromptu interaction is often driven by a visitor's questions and contains an element of spontaneity. However, most visitors usually have similar questions, allowing the interpreter to give fairly standard answers. Thus, the information being dispensed is consistent. Impromptu interaction works well in small group environments. Scripted interaction works better for large groups because the element of intimacy can be lost when many people of families present. In a scripted scenario, the interpreter addresses the entire group, presenting predetermined information. It, too, can be interactive by encouraging questions from the group or selecting people to participate in the presentation.

Living history is hands-on-education. Encourage visitors to touch and involve them in period activities.
Tips for success.
• What sets a "living historian" apart from others is not the clothing but his or her knowledge of the period being portrayed and a familiarity of that period's material culture.
• While living history is entertaining, it is a proven educational method. Take it seriously and refrain from developing a "theme park" mentality.
• Complacency results in stagnation. Interpreters who engage in living history must always strive to learn more about the time period they portray.

Used with permission.

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We Made History- a group of living historical re-enactors who are more than impersonators of historical figures-they are serious portrayers of U.S. Presidents and First Ladies

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Last modified: 08/23/2018