For the average history buff, wrestling with the desire to rewind the clock and travel back in history is no rare occurrence. Because humans are hardwired with a fascination for the past, it’s no surprise that passionate performers and history fans joined forces to satisfy their cravings for smoking clay pipes and attending local puppet shows. Today, history fanatics nationwide find ways to recreate 18th-century historical battles and scenarios in what’s known as historical reenactments.
For those reenactment rookies, historical reenacting, also known as living history, is a hobby where participants attempt to relive historical events by recreating the setting, actions, and outfits from specific periods. Rest assured, there’s no “right way” to participate in living history, which draws in history buffs across the nation. No matter your circumstances, you can participate in historical reenactments as long as you are willing and able to commit to the long days of petticoat wear.
Before you decide to dive into participating in local reenactments, aspiring reenactors will need to do a few things, such as finding an event itself, gathering the necessary props and costumes, and doing your research to help with historical accuracy. If you hope to pick up historical reenacting as a hobby, read on for five tips to help you find success.
What to bring
Many first-time reenactors experience anxiety regarding the items they choose to bring with them when they first go out reenacting. As an experienced reenactor will tell you, your reenacting kit will continue to grow as you gain experience, so it is more important to prioritize safety over authenticity when you are just starting. Items like sunscreen, lip balm, nail clippers, twine, a small sewing kit, tissues/wet wipes, any needed medications, and bandages are all small and easy to conceal in a small box or poke bag. It’s okay to be a little inexperienced for your first few months. Take your time and work your way up to a trunk full of 18th Century Women’s Fashion and hyper realistic weapon replicas. As long as you stick with it, you’ll be sure to end up with an authentic reenacting kit in no time.
How to find a reenactment group
After you decide which time period you want to focus on, you can start searching for in-person reenactment groups. You’ll want to shoot for something that makes sense for you geographically, ideally within a day’s drive. Prioritize finding a group that shares similar interests with you since you will be working closely and spending lots of time around these folks. If you are struggling to locate groups, do a quick search on social media. Many reenactment troupes have online groups where members can plan events and communicate with each other.
Develop a persona
Once you have your reenactment group lined up, you can begin spending time on your persona. The persona is the character or role that a reenactor chooses to take on while participating. Actual historical figures or fictional people generally inspire a reenactment persona. But regardless of the inspiration, the persona you choose should be meaningful to you.
Be willing to learn
New reenactors need to be willing to listen and learn from fellow reenactors with much more experience. The desire to learn is vital when you start since there can be a learning curve. Some veterans suggest carrying a notebook or notecards, so you can write down questions and take notes as you go along. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you are asking too many questions. Many experienced reenactors are happy to help you out and point newcomers in the right direction.
What you should expect
Historical reenactments are taken very seriously by many reenactors who participate in them. Though there is, of course, room for fun, many folks pride themselves on their authenticity and ability to immerse themselves in living history for a short time. Living history may also include less-than-savory food, uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, and itchy clothing. Many historical reenactment adventures take place outdoors, occasionally leaving participants at the mercy of the weather. As long as you plan and prepare ahead of time, you’ll be able to make it through almost any reenactment weekend successfully.
Historical reenactment can be an expensive and sometimes intimidating hobby for beginners. However, many passionate reenactors are eager and willing to share their knowledge and love for this activity. If you are interested in giving historical reenactment a try, consider this your sign to start finding a new group