A Response to PHMC's Cancellation of Battle Reenactments
HOMESPUN HISTORICAL VENTURES, INC.
PRESERVING THE PAST THROUGH PHILANTHROPY AND AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCES
To: Historical Reenactors and Interpreters
From: Board of Directors, Homespun Historical Ventures, Inc.
Date: February 3, 2023
RE: A Response to Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission announcement about the “Discontinuation of Force-on-Force Reenactment”
The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission recently announced the discontinuation of force-on-force reenactments. While this largely impacts Revolutionary War sites and events, this decision has received mixed reactions from those across all eras of the historical reenactment community. Some appreciate the shift towards living histories while others acknowledge the significant financial benefits that battle reenactments bring to preservation efforts.
It is worth noting that while living histories at National Park Service and state park sites are popular among many reenactors (us included), these taxpayer-funded sites have a discretionary budget of $3.6 billion and do not have to rely on large events for survival. Other sites and museums operated by smaller and or private entities, however, may depend on their annual reenactments for critical funding and preservation. Although battle reenactments are often considered the least authentic form of historical reenactment, they still draw large crowds for entertainment purposes. Much like old cowboy or military movies – while not totally authentic, we still love them as classics – and they are worth paying to see in the eyes of many.
Most spectators view battle reenactments as a form of large-scale theatrical performance. The quality of these performances absolutely do vary, but none of the spectators expect the reenactments to fully “replicate the tragic complexities of real warfare and violent conflict”. They expect an essence or glimpse into the sights and sounds of historical battles. While certainly not able to authentically recreate the sheer scale of every engagement, they do offer a better sense of just how great these historic events were.
These events evoke emotions and memories, especially for those who have recently learned about their ancestral connection to the battles through genealogical research. For children, battle reenactments provide a more engaging visual representation of what they learn in history class. Many who participate in reenactments were initially drawn to the hobby as spectators and now view it as a valuable learning experience. Despite the potential for these events to seem silly, it is important to remember the spark that first ignited one's passion for history – which was likely a battle reenactment or some cheesy classic war flick.
Reenactors participate for various reasons, including a love for living histories, participating in recreating full-scale regiments, and preservation marches. Some enjoy immersive force-on-force events while others prefer more traditional battle reenactments. Some portray the military side of a time period and others enjoy civilian interpretation. Regardless of the type of event, reenactors have the opportunity to have a great experience while delivering a great experience to others.
At Homespun Historical Ventures Inc., we are dedicated to preserving historical sites and promoting events of all sizes and types, including immersion events, civilian events, battle reenactments, films, school programs, and more. Our focus is on striving towards authenticity and accuracy across all time periods. In doing so, we not only host our own events, we also work with other event organizers. Our common goal is to provide both participants and spectators alike with a better understanding of what people from the past experienced. We aim to provide a platform for individuals who share our values to participate in accurate demonstrations for the public in designated living history areas as much as we want to offer a glimpse at scale. Besides, larger spectator events have the capacity to generate more revenue for preservation efforts.
Homespun Historical Ventures Inc. is here to assist folks in getting events off the ground by offering promotion, logistical support, fundraising, registration management, guidelines, and much more.
If this interests you, visit https://homespunhistoricalventures.org/ for more information.
Your Fellow Living Historians,
FRANKLIN D. VAN VALKENBURG
JOHN J. MANORE, III