Love Lost or Lost Love: Results Of The Museum Professional-Reenactor Compatibility Test

You would think that museum professionals and reenactors have had a long, almost torrid love affair with one another. After all they share so many interests. Unfortunately, in most cases there’s no love lost between them because they’re too much alike.

But how similar are they? We gave them a compatibility test. They each answered a series of questions regarding their outlook on interpreting history and their role in running events. Here is what we found:

The Show
Museum Professionals: Think it’s their show and they’re doing reenactors a favor.
Reenactors: Think it’s their show and they’re doing the museum a favor.

Understanding Visitors
Museum Professionals: Based on years of accumulated anecdotal experience as it relates to their own interests.
Reenactors: Based on years of accumulated anecdotal experience as it relates to their own interests.

Presentation Quality
Museum Professionals: Based on what they know how to do or who they can afford to do it for them.
Reenactors: Based on what they know how to do or who they can afford to do it for them.

Credentials
Museum Professionals: Mention either their degree or the size and/or prestige of the museum they work at.
Reenactors: Mention how long they have been reenacting. They expect bonus points if they were around for the Civil War Centennial or the American Bicentennial.

Site Use
Museum Professionals: Wonder why reenactors don’t understand that occupying the site and buildings may damage the remaining history.
Reenactors: Wonder why museum professionals won’t let them occupy the site and buildings the way people did historically.

Membership
Museum Professionals: Never have enough and wonders why the reenactors they work with don’t join.
Reenactors: Never have enough and wonders why the museum professionals they work with don’t join.

Attendance
Museum Professionals: Never have enough members showing up.
Reenactors: Never have enough members showing up.

Administration
Museum Professionals: Don’t realize that reenactment units are about internal politics and not history.
Reenactors: Don’t realize that museums are about internal politics and not history.

“Get Out of Jail Free” Phrase Excusing Poor Research
Museum Professionals: “It makes sense.”
Reenactors: “If they’d a had it, they’d have used it” (though they do use the museum professional’s excuse too).

Museum 2.0
Museum Professionals: Scrambling to incorporate any part of it into their activities.
Reenactors: Have been living the visitors’ side of chapters 6, 7, and 8 of The Participatory Museum for decades.

Gauging Others’ Ability
Museum Professionals: Looks at others’ visitor numbers and annual donations.
Reenactors: Looks at others’ clothing fit and stitching technique.

Authenticity
Museum Professionals: Cares more about the visitor experience than pure accuracy.
Reenactors: Cares more about pure accuracy than the visitor experience.

Selecting Reproductions
Museum Professionals: Due to budget constraints, the cheaper the bettter.
Reenactors: Due to bragging rights, the more expensive the better.

Ethical Hot Button
Museum Professionals: Deaccessioning.
Reenactors: Dining Flies.

On Presenting History
Museum Professionals: Think they know more than the reenactors about how to present history.
Reenactors: Think they know more than the museum professionals about how to present history.

On This Test
Museum Professionals: Think this list is all too true about reenactors, but not them.
Reenactors: Think this list is all too true about museum professionals, but not them.

Basically, it’s almost impossible for two type-A personalities to be in a long-term committed relationship together. It’s all two-night stands and “I’ll call you.” In reality, most museum professionals and reenactors are friends-with-benefits.

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About T.H. Gray

T.H. Gray is the self-appointed court jester and Dr. Demento for the history museum field. A lifelong museum professional and reenactor, he is a graduate of the prestigious Peale-Barnum Public History Museum Studies Program. Until 2011, when the AHS hired him away, he was on staff at the Benjamin Dover Memorial Museum & Swimming Pool ("Our History is All Wet!"). He remembers when museums were still about history, science, and art. BTW, all of these posts say they are by T.H. Gray because he can't turn off the byline. Credit, when due, is given. View all posts by T.H. Gray

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