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Dana Repp
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« on: August 15, 2015, 08:41:40 AM »

Amid our long, late night, candle lit, conversations at back to back Brigades came the discussion: Stupid Visitor Questions. After a few funny stories the idea of "What we wish they would ask" came up.  I think that most visitors don't know what they want to ask or how to ask it because it's so much to take in sometimes.

I want to compile a list of questions for the public to use as a sort of springboard so they can get the most out of their visits. We happily give kids scavenger lists of things to find around our site so I want something for the older crowd.  If you submit a question put a short note of other discussions that could spring from it.

I'll start with the correct version of everyone's favorite:
 
Did they really cook with open fire? (wood chopping/gathering, whose job, fire starting, fire safety, cast iron, regulating cooking temps, types of food) 

What would you want a visitor to ask you about what your site and/or what you are  interpreting in the 19th century?
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~Dana~

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters
Col. 3:23
Paula
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« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2015, 03:02:37 PM »

Ok, I'll play.  Based on my recent experiences on the Trail:

Did woman really wear all those layers, everyday?  (Layers involved, comfort of wearer, the purpose of layers)
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2015, 03:54:42 PM »

Oh, good topic!

As an implementation thing, I saw a bit on-line where they had "good questions" printed out for people, to spark easy conversations. I could imagine doing this and having a basket or jar or bowl out with a sign: "Free Questions: Take One!"

How Did You Get That?

Applies to food, fabric, tools... great springboard to talk about economic, trade, mercantile, and manufacturing systems, from small domestic production and purchasing, to community-wide and even global economic systems!

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Elizabeth
Heidi Hollister
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2015, 11:17:00 AM »

How about "How did they stay comfortable in hot weather?"

Or, "How did they avoid food borne illness without refrigeration?"

"What was the purpose of all young children wearing dresses regardless of sex?"

"Why do period images rarely show a smiling face?"

"How did they keep from squinting in the bright sun?"

I can think of more I'm sure, but there's just a few to start.
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Dana Repp
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2015, 10:55:33 AM »

Elizabeth,
Could we move this to 19th century life? I'm not sure that this is quite right here.  Smiley
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~Dana~

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters
Col. 3:23
MaryDee
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2015, 02:16:50 PM »

Some of these need care to avoid breaking the impression when answering.  Examples:

"How did they avoid food-borne illness?"  In the 1860s the existence of germs was still unknown even to physicians, much less the general public.  You could discuss the methods of preserving food in use at the time (pickling, salting, smoking, drying, some methods of canning, and refrigeration methods such as the spring house, the ice house and using wet towels for evaporative cooling.  Also that we wouldn't eat something that appeared to be spoiled. 

The one I hear multiple times at every event:  "Aren't you hot  in that outfit?"  In the mid-19th century there were no synthetic fabrics, so the answer I and others have used, "Our clothes are made of all natural fabrics" is not "in period."
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EKorsmo
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2015, 08:29:17 PM »

My in-character answer is to agree that the weather is warm, and to explain that my semi/sheer dress is a nice light, summer-weight cotton, with plenty of air circulation.  Often visitors will remark on the relative coolness of the Factor's House, so we can mention the high ceilings, veranda roof (no direct light through the window glass), how the doors line up for a cross breeze, etc.
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Anna Worden Bauersmith
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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2015, 07:41:17 PM »

Some questions I've liked:

  • "Do you live here also?" (Here being the millinery shop.)
    "How much money do you make?"
    Reference to how much or how little light there was for sewing.
    "Do you also make men's hats?" (again, millinery)
    "Where do you get ____?"

I tend to have a lot of visual prompts that lead to good questions even if it is just a look of inquiry.

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Anna Worden Bauersmith
http://annaworden.wordpress.com/
Straw & Winter Millinery - Available on Etsy
Fanciful Utility: Victorian Sewing Cases & Needle-books
From Field to Fashion: The Straw Bonnet
Dana Repp
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« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2015, 10:47:59 AM »

Those are some good ones Anna.  May I ask what visual things you like to keep about you that inspires people to ask questions?
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~Dana~

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters
Col. 3:23
BetsyConnolly
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« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2015, 10:59:08 AM »

I come from a place where people are generally rather reticent. Ashley Middleton and I once went to a grocery store to pick up some picnic things before a day-trip event; not a single person batted an eyelash at us, spoke to us, or asked us a question. Similar behavior is displayed at events - people might watch you, but they feel awkward asking questions.

The plus side of this is that they will sometimes make statements instead - things like, "I like your dress," or "You must be warm". From there, you can launch into your schtick, which may embolden them to ask questions or make further observations. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

My favorite thing to be asked is, "What can you tell me about ____?" Usually it's something I'm doing - knitting, sewing, wearing funny clothes, playing games. It gives me an in to tell them a little something about what I'm wearing or what I'm doing.

I try to operate on the principle that most people who ask "silly questions"  (Is that a real fire, is that a real tent, is that real food, is that a real baby, are you a real person, do you have an air conditioner under your dress), or the ones who make assumptions (You must be hot, you must be tired, you must be crazy, I couldn't ever wear that) have actual good questions in mind but don't know how to phrase them. The old standby of "Are you hot?" may be the only way they can phrase their curiosity about what you're wearing and how comfortable it is. "Are you really going to eat that food?" may be a poor attempt at "Tell me about the food you cooked and how food was cooked during that time." If we can treat them with a little bit of grace, we may turn an awkward question into a learning experience.

And yes, I have been asked if I have an AC unit under my dress. Sometimes, they're just plain silly questions Cheesy
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Betsy Connolly
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Anna Worden Bauersmith
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« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2015, 10:29:14 AM »

Those are some good ones Anna.  May I ask what visual things you like to keep about you that inspires people to ask questions?

Since I am most often in the millinery, it is pretty easy. I have examples of millinery for each season, sunbonnets to talk about the context of those, material samples (silk, straw, ribbon, etc), and sewing tools. I put the things I want touched, cotton and straw, closer to the front while those I'd like touched less, silks, towards the back. I have child size and child safe items lower down. I keep things that are sharp or tiny near me. I'm very tactile, so I like to hand samples out for people to feel as we are talking. (I keep wanting to make a materials display too for other types of presentations.)

When doing other set-ups, I like to include items people can connect to (relate to) and items that are more puzzling. Having both catches from different directions. So, if I was in a parlor or kitchen doing a sewing demo, I'd want a couple pincushions one of which may look familiar "like mom had" and some thread winders. The latter look different and can be a conversation about a task a child might do.
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Anna Worden Bauersmith
http://annaworden.wordpress.com/
Straw & Winter Millinery - Available on Etsy
Fanciful Utility: Victorian Sewing Cases & Needle-books
From Field to Fashion: The Straw Bonnet
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