Bring your ancestors to life with a visit to a living history museum. Here’s your planning guide.
Imagine stepping back in time to enter the lives of your ancestors as easily as stepping into your kitchen. Living history museums and re-enactments can make your heritage come alive with details about your ancestors’ experiences. You can find out what unfamiliar-to-us foods they might’ve eaten, what their clothing felt like, what current events they witnessed and what skills they needed to get through a day. Maybe you’ll learn how to make iron gall ink from the growths on oak trees, observe an artillery crew execute the precisely timed tasks of firing a cannon, or try carding wool and spinning it into yarn. All sorts of particulars about your forbears’ lives will materialize when you visit a living history exhibit.
Living history enthusiasm started in the 1920s when John D. Rockefeller began funding acquisitions and restoration at Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg
. In 1929, Henry Ford founded Greenfield Village <thehenryford.com/village> in Michigan to showcase American life in the mid-1800s. Today, small museums and interpretive sites across the country join large, well-known museums such as Old Sturbridge Village
in Massachusetts, Old World Wisconsin
and This Is the Place Heritage Park
in Salt Lake City. You can find living history museums representing every time period and culture from around the world—likely including your ancestors’. A bit of planning is necessary, though, to find a living history site near you and make the most of your visit. Whether you want a day trip or a weeklong history immersion, here’s how to take your family along on a journey to your family’s past.