As an amateur history buff, I subscribe to several mailings lists that revolve around the hobby of researching and re-enacting the time period of the American Revolution. While not a re-enactor myself, I find the lists interesting and full of information.
Generally these lists revolve around the military aspects of the time. Occasionally, though, the topics wander to civilian life, or the sub-culture of re-enacting in general. It’s not unusual for these conversations to turn to the subjects of authenticity, level of participation, documentation, and so on. Since these lists are public, many types of people subscribe to them. These people self-describe themselves using various term: re-enactor, living historian, amateur researcher, sutler, craftsman, and more.
A conversation a few days ago made me wonder how I would label myself. I’m not a re-enactor. I don’t dress in period clothing, or attend events. I’m not a living-historian who volunteers at a museum or other venue to help educate the public. Though I do research topics that interested me, I wouldn’t label myself a researcher. My best description of myself is a dabbler. I read when I can, and I occasionally make attempts at recreating period items.
What is this project about then?
One topic that comes up on the lists from time to time is the subject of new people coming into the hobby, and how they perceive, and are perceived by, others in the hobby. How do these people avoid mistakes, do research of their own, get involved, and find their fit?
This is my attempt.
As I mentioned above, I’m not a re-enactor. I don’t belong to a re-enacting unit, and my involvement with the hobby is mostly passive, reading on the lists about what others are doing. With this project, I’m going to do my best to re-create a person from the 18th century, documenting everything that I can. Why document? It’s part of the hobby. Documentation helps explain the decisions a person makes when creating garments, tools, living conditions, etc. In my case, since I don’t belong to a unit, and don’t currently have any material pieces, or an established re-enacting persona, I’ll be starting from scratch.