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Call for papers – Visiting the Past: A Re-enactment Handbook

In this call for papers, we welcome contributions on how to practically go about organising re-enactments, from, for example, re-enactors, guides, museum curators and educators, experimental archaeologists, historians, and teachers.

Since the late 20th century re-enactment/living history has grown steadily as a form of direct and participatory practice of public history.

Tablet weaving in action.
Tablet weaving in action. (Jo Bourne)

Around the world many thousands of history enthusiasts have (quite literally) stepped into the shoes of people from the past as a way of exploring aspects of living in a time other than the present. At the same time, re-enactment has also become a method for public history mediation among professional public history bodies such as archaeological or historical museums.

Both re-enactors and museums have recently voiced a need for more in-depth dialogue on the practicalities of re-enactment as public history.

In this call for papers, we welcome contributions on how to practically go about organising re-enactments, from, for example, re-enactors, guides, museum curators and educators, experimental archaeologists, historians, and teachers.

The purpose is to develop a practical handbook for those interested in using re-enactment to explore, experience, and mediate history as a public history project.

What is meant by re-enactment/living history here is an event which “seeks to advance [individual and collective] historical understanding through an authentic simulation of past objects, events, practices, and experiences” (Agnew and Toman 2020: 20).

young male horse guard during near sea
Photo by Joe Ambrogio on Pexels.com

We include living history, Live-Action Role Play (LARP) and digitally mediated immersive experiences. We are interested in all cultures and historical periods. Re-enactments could focus on a specific historical event or they could be comprised of a combination of characters and events that create a more general period setting from across the world, such as Silk Road re-enactment, everyday life in the Iron Age, life on an American plantation, or World War Two.

We welcome abstracts of 500 words, which should be sent to ragnhild.ljosland@uhi.ac.uk by Friday, June 11, 2021 (use the subject-line “Visiting the past”).

Successful applicants are welcomed to a digital workshop between September 30 and October 1, 2021.

The book project will also make an appearance as a workshop at the Reconference, November 5-7, The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.

Chapter themes could include, but are not limited to:

Making history come alive

  • A common terminology for all who are involved in re-enactment/Living History.
  • Considering material authenticity: sources and compromises.
  • Achieving authenticity through immersion and embodied experience.
  • Risk management and insurance considerations.
  • Representation in re-enactment/living history (i.e. whose story is being told).

Exploring history

  • Starting out with re-enactment on a low budget: what can be done without building a custom ‘set’?
  • Story and plot.
    o Re-enactment, living history and LARP, including opportunities to let participants ‘make history’.
    o Preparing and playing characters.
    o Historical, composite, literary (incl. saga) characters.
    o Taking on 1, 2 and 3rd role impersonating historical characters.
    o Representation, diversity.
  • Crafts and crafting activities
    o Fun, easy starters, challenging participants and enhancing skills, safety
    o Food, Information sources, recipes, cooking for or cooking with, hygiene.
    o Clothing – make it yourself or purchase.
  • Re-enactment IRL vs re-enactment in the Digital world
    o Games, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality.
  • Contribution to science by experimental work.

Mediating history

  • Re-enactment for school groups: how can schools, museums, and re-enactors find each other and work successfully together?
    o Best practice case study of a re-enactment with school age participants
  • Re-enactment as recreation and tourism.
    o Best practice case study of re-enactment as recreation and tourism
  • Re-enactment as community heritage work.
    o Best practice case study of re-enactment as community heritage work
  • How to deal with difficult participant responses, for example white supremacist agendas or sexism.
    o Best practice case study of how to deal with difficult participant responses
  • How to re-enact darker historical events, for example life as a refugee, the Holocaust, enslavement, Viking raids.
    o Best practice case study of successful re-enactment of dark historical event
  • How to deal with beliefs or practices in the past that clash with the present, for example politics or religion.
    o Best practice case study of exploring beliefs in the past that differ from the present.
  • How to deal with complex characteristics of participants and characters, for example gender, body, race, disability: aiming for inclusion, openness, and diversity.
    o Best practice case study of inclusion, openness, and diversity.
  • How to find, deal with and incorporate new historical or archaeological research in re-enactment.
  • Best practice case study of how to incorporate new historical or archaeological research in re-enactment and living-history. Re-enactment practices as research method.

1 comment

  1. I wonder if my book on
    “a Celebrating of Sunrisr at the Tomb of the Eagles”, Ilse Babette Barthelmess, 2004,
    would be of interest in this context?
    Kind regards Babette

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