Museum Archipelago

81. Living History in a Pandemic at Old Sturbridge Village

June 1st, 2020  •  12 mins 30 secs  •  Download (10.3 MB)  •  Link with Timestamp

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Old Sturbridge Village is a living history museum in Massachusetts depicting life in rural New England during the early 19th century. But the early 19th century isn’t specific enough for the site’s historical interpreters—to immerse visitors in the world they’re recreating, knowing exactly what year it “is” matters.

Tom Kelleher, Historian and Curator of Mechanical Arts at Old Sturbridge Village was tasked with choosing that “default” date. He chose 1838 in part because the social and political change of that time period would resonate with today’s visitors. But there’s another aspect of the year that will resonate with visitors today once the museum reopens after closing due to Covid-19: how people in New England responded to the Cholera Pandemic of the 1830s.

In this episode, Kelleher describes the difference between first and third person interpretation, and how visitors might react to seeing 19th century costumed interpreters with modern facemasks.