My assistant misunderstood the exercise, and is disappointed that we will not be turning the government over to him.
What is clear is that 501 people from around the world (really: people responded from the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, Great Britain) were interested enough to see what we could find out by asking questions about what, how, and why we make and wear these funny clothes. I’m immensely grateful that Google tools are easy to use, as I can present Graphs Without Tears:
Here’s how that breaks down:
Strongly disagree: 1.8%
Disagree: 0.6 %
Strongly agree: 63.7%
That is, 94.6% of respondents agree that they try to make the most period-correct clothing they can. The “strongly disagree” folks (9 of them) are interesting to me, because it’s a position that’s foreign to me. (This is why recording your email was an option, so I could clarify the data.)
Next, let’s look at Authenticity:
Here’s how that breaks down:
Strongly disagree: 2.6%
And on the use of Primary Sources:
No: 5.6 %
When I dug into what sources people use, and consider “primary sources,” I realized I have more questions to ask, and there are some folks who could use some research help. Not handed to them on a plate or in a slideshow, but in terms of process, and in recognizing primary versus secondary sources, and how they can be used together for maximum understanding.
Then I asked, Why is documentation important to you?
Those responses will also inform another round of questions. Many were very revealing of thought processes and approaches; some made me a little sad. A couple of people said, essentially, I don’t want other reenactors to laugh at me. I think we can do better than that, right? Let’s try empathy on for size, and be as helpful as we can in guiding people to an understanding of what they want to do, and how best to go about it.
Because the answers varied in length, I started reading them to discern the essence of the response, and I came up with five categories; the sixth slice represents the answers left blank.
Respect (of ancestors, history): 4.0%
Personal (fun; satisfaction): 0.5%
No answer: 4.5%
Accuracy is the main reason documentation matters to people, and they gave good answers for why accuracy mattered.
I want to have the resource itself, rather than someone else’s interpretation of it. If everyone bases their impression off of somebody else, rather than going to the source first, it becomes a game of telephone.
It’s like medical documentation. If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen. There’s enough open source imagery and documents on the internet, let alone physical ones or surviving garments, that there really is no excuse for wild supposition.
Because everything else is unsubstantiated conjecture or hearsay and feels inauthentic to me and to those around me.
Because I use my impression to communicate about history, and history is grounded in factual, accurate information.
Documentation is the truth behind the fiction of a living history impression.
Immersion had interesting answers, too:
I want to accurately portray my impression for the public. As an added bonus, wearing the correct clothing and using period correct items, helps me connect with the people I portray on a personal level.
Because the point of living history (to me) is to recreate the past enough to learn from the visceral experience of *living* it, so it needs to be pretty accurate! Documentation is how I can know if what I’m doing is accurate (or close to accurate).
It tells us a lot about the larger picture of what was going on: trade, manufacturing, diplomacy, economics
Because if we’re teaching people history, teaching them something that’s wrong is a disservice and an embarrassment on our part. We have the ability to learn what’s correct.
Researching and documenting my impression is why I am proud to put on my clothes. I enjoy the challenge and detective work that comes before I ever cut into any fabric.
We owe it to our ancestors to tell their stories as accurately as possible.
For the class of person I represent, documentation can be very difficult to get at. Some documentation indicates that the garment(s) in question possibly existed, 3 pieces of documentation is ideal, but 2 will sometimes do, depending on my instincts about something. I have regretted only going for two in the past because my intention is generally to represent something very common. Documentation is important because it shows respect for the historical people I am trying to represent, it shows respect for my own work and time and it shows respect to the hobby (which, in historical circles, is often far more important than people give it credit for).
There’s a lot to think about in considering what you all think about, and I am really grateful for your help! As I look at the answers over the next days/weeks, I’ll let you know what else I see, and once I figure out how to ask the next round, there will be more questions! Thanks again! (And if you didn’t get to participate this time, no worries: you can join in next time; the easiest way is to follow the Kitty Calash FB page, but I’ll also post a link here.)
Nancy N said:
I have so much respect for what the re-enactors embrace — I don’t think those of us who might be onlookers understand how much hard work goes into the simplest outfit! Thanks for sharing this. And thanks for the Census Taking painting — I love that Pa’s hat and stick are on the floor. And that the Census Taker has a red satin lining to his black coat, and an assistant who is clearly growing too fast for his trousers. But that baby looks like it’s slipping off Ma’s lap…