Living History

This weekend, I went to the Joel Lane Museum House to volunteer as a ‘living historian’.

This particular house was owned by the guy that owned most of the land in the area, thus earning Joel Lane the nickname of  “The Father of Raleigh”. Basically, this house is a museum where the volunteers dress up like they’re form the 18th century and lead various activities and tours around the property.  It’s pretty cool, and since it’s in the middle of the city, you get a lot of random stares from the street when you’re in costume.

This weekend, the JLMH hosted a Girl Scout event and a ladies’ tea. The Girl Scouts came on Saturday, my first day volunteering. I took about 20 minutes to get into my costume – I was only vaguely familiar with that method of dressing, and the director had to come by and teach me how to use a kirch properly. Once dressed, I taught the girls how to make rag dolls and bind little journals.  The Girl Scouts were so well-behaved and I don’t think they realized that I was learning along with them. Haha! I met so many cool, like-minded ladies that volunteered that day — therefore, I decided to come back the next day to do it all over again.

Sunday was completely different.  The Ladies’ Tea was headed by the director and another woman who brought the big guns out.  While the rest of the volunteers were dressed like working class ladies in linen, the Lynn and Belle dressed as if they were 18th century socialites.  Lynn even went as far as to wear a silk dress she made, complete with authentic wig.  Insane. Our costumes went really well with the historical explanation of how the ritual of afternoon tea came into being and what it meant to various classes of women in the 18th century. Since I was a working class lady yesterday, I dressed accordingly.

The hat really brought it together. I could have totally thrived in the 18th century, since they avoided the sun like the plague, too.

I was tasked with serving the steaming water to the head lady of the table (the “mother”). If you know anything about me, I quit my first serving job after a week and a half because I was just horrible at it.  I made sure to splatter pour water away from the tables. Once the water was poured, I served random snacks and the ladies and their daughters talked for a good hour.  Then we had more activities along with dancing.  Reels are called reels for a reason.

The ladies lingered long after they were supposed to leave — a sure sign that they enjoyed themselves.  Given knowledge of my historical predilictions, I loved this experience, as well. Despite layers of petticoats in the upcoming blazing summer sun, I intend to continue to volunteer my heart out.  My eventual goal is to scrape together the correct pieces to make my own costume to wear. They have loaners, but I want something that is tailored to me.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.


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