Friday, April 20, 2007

Try on History

This is a picture of a lovely, historical landmark in our area called the General Crook House Museum. Of the Italianate style, it once served as the residence of the commanding General of a military fort. Here the General and his gracious wife entertained at least 2 presidents and many other important dignitaries (1880's era).

Meticulously restored and furnished with Victorian furniture, it boasts wonderful collections of glass and period artifacts. Most impressive is the costume collection and a wonderful learning program for girls called 'Try on History".

I was privileged, along with 2 of my girls and 10 other homeschooled girls, to participate in this 4+ hour experience. The docent who leads the program is a retired science teacher~~a real gentleman with a white moustache and proper manners to match the atmosphere of the museum. The girls were subtly challenged to act in keeping with their surroundings; to sit with good posture, to walk elegantly and slowly, to exhibit good manners and speak gentle words.

The teaching style was Socratic; a continual stream of questions stimulated thought and conversation. It was fascinating to watch the effect it had on the girls. For example, the teacher explained that kerosene lamps had to be washed daily because they produced soot. Later, he questioned the girls as to why there might be a protective, circular plate around the hanging chandelier? They made the connection on their own and were able to ascertain that it was for the purpose of keeping the soot off of the ceiling. I saw the girls making connections like that all afternoon.

An especially fun part of the program was the kitchen demonstration. This was very hands-on. A cast iron waffle iron was handed from girl to girl to test each person's strength. It was very heavy and had to be flipped deftly and quickly in order to avoid imaginary "spills". This little exercise gave everyone a dose of reality. Ladies from the Victorian era needed MUSCLE and had to work very, very hard.

All the time we were in the kitchen we were smelling cornbread baking, and then got to enjoy it piping hot from the oven and slathered with honey butter. mmmmmm!

The grand finale of the afternoon was the costume segment. Each of the dozen girls got to model a vintage costume (complete with drawers, petticoats, chemises, hoops, and under-blouses!) and were presented very formally. Then the docent twirled them three times so they could enjoy their wonderful, twirly skirts. There were ball gowns of satin, bankers' wives suits with trains, prairie dresses, school dresses, frilly dresses and business suits. What amazed me was that the elderly gentleman selected styles that perfectly matched the personality and coloring of the young ladies. He obviously had a trained eye and was an astute judge of human nature.

I loved this experience. I loved the shy smiles on the girls faces as they twirled in their skirts. I loved the interest that shone in their eyes as they envisioned bygone days. I loved their chirping, excited voices after it was all over. One little girl exclaimed, "Oh, I wish we could go back inside and do it ALL OVER AGAIN!"

The season of childhood is so brief and fleeting. Sometimes I, too, want to go back and do it ALL OVER AGAIN. To savor and enjoy the sweet memories being tucked away in my children's hearts is the next best thing.

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