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It was three years ago on a warm August afternoon in the museum room we’d turned into a photo studio when I quipped, “All my fantasies are documented.” It’s been hard to live down ever since.

With Mrs B watching Miss B self-perambulate upon the sidewalk.

With Mrs B watching Miss B self-perambulate upon the sidewalk.

Documentation, research: we all do it, everyone who reads this blog does it. What matters is how you use it– or, maybe even more importantly, how well you understand how you are using your research. This past weekend was the Salem Maritime Festival, and round number three for me in the West India Goods Store (WIGS, which sounds far more political than it is). The year was 1804, and as you may recall, that required a new dress.

Reader, I wore it. And it survived!

Yes, it is made from an IKEA curtain. The pattern is my own, derived from examples in Janet Arnold, at Genesee, and the KCI. Once again, I discovered the power of upper body strength and leverage. It’s not that my stays are too big necessarily. The busk is too long, that I will grant you. But I think the shoulder straps are as well, and the shift– that slattern! She was rolling a la Renaissance Faire, which is completely unacceptable, of course, as she slid down my right shoulder by the end of the day when the shop had been unpacked into the conveyance.

So let us focus on the non-slattern part of the day, when a mercantile enterprise briefly overtook the WIGS.

There was some custom, though numerous debts were recorded in the ledger.  (Somehow, there are no images of Mr K sweating over the figures in the book, though I recall them clearly.)

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The shop was hot, but we attempted to stay fed and hydrated, as we discussed the various kinds of goods imported to places like Salem and Providence in 1804. Politics were rather difficult to discuss, as Mr K has a marked antipathy for Mr Jefferson that caused a mild agitation; expanding the country does seem a bold and perhaps unconstitutional move, given the deal Mr Jefferson has struck with Bonaparte, but perhaps this is for the best. The Indians will surely benefit from Christianity and education.*

It’s engaging in the moment, and we’ve done our research. But it’s a fantasy nonetheless, a kind of happening grounded in primary sources and material culture. I’m OK with that– I understand what I am doing– but I wonder sometimes if the people I’m watching on social media understand what they are doing with the fantasies they portray.



* To be SUPER clear, I’m staying in character here. I worked in Missouri and I have enough understanding of “manifest destiny” to disagree with this point of view.