Dress-Up

20 11 2009

Kevin Levin has posted this article over at Civil War Memory.  I have no dog in this fight: I am not nor have I ever been a re-enactor or “living historian”, whatever that means.  And I don’t attend – purposely, anyway – re-enactments.  I was vaguely planning to be in the area for the 150th anniversary of the battle, in part because I’ve been considering joining the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, and friend Robert Moore tells me the national convention of that organization is planned for 2011 in Manassas.  $350,000 ($100,000 from Manassas, $250,000 from the State of Virginia) seems like a lot of scratch, even in these times when government dollars are basically Monopoly money.

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8 responses

20 11 2009
Kevin Levin

Thanks for the kind words re: my anniversary. I just wanted to follow up on my post to clarify that I am not suggesting that reenactments are not appropriate events for the sesquicentennial. It’s not my cup of tea, but clearly there are people who enjoy it and I have no problem with that. My concern is with the state funding and its endorsement of the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission. I took some time to look up the board members of the Virginia Civil War Events Inc. and they all seem to be involved in local government and boosterism. I wonder if you can add anything about this group.

20 11 2009
Harry Smeltzer

I’m not offering an opinion on re-enactments either, as I said I have no dog in the fight. They don’t appeal to me, but I don’t object to them.

I don’t know anything about the groups in question – I’m far away in Pittsburgh and not involved in any way with what goes on down there, and that’s doubtless a good thing for them and me.

I haven’t seen the reaction to the upcoming sesquicentennial that many were expecting, but I think it has less to do with “the economy” and more to do with the myriad opportunites out there for folks to experience the history of the Civil War – we don’t need sesquicentennial events because we’ve got events out the wazoo all year round, every year.

There’s something unpalatable about the blatant way “heritage tourism” types are approaching these things – they come across as Tom and Jerry with those big dollar signs in their eyeballs. And the thought of them being in charge of sesquicentennial commemorations is disturbing. There’s a big difference between saying “if we build it, they will come” and “if we build it this way, more will come.”

20 11 2009
Kevin Levin

Thanks for the response Harry. I wasn’t suggesting that you were taking a stand on reenactments either way. For some reason I thought you were in northern Virginia. I like the Tom and Jerry reference.

20 11 2009
Craig Swain

I, like you, see $350K as a “load of money.” Might even pay off my mortgage. But as far as “big” events go (not talking just CW Reenactments) that isn’t out of band. Many years back I was involved with several localized events. What struck me was how many things sort of “pile on” to the event cost. The operating expenses cover everything from hay and fodder to advertising to the little green rooms. Some venues require grounds fees (likely in this case as the event is held on private land). I’ve seen some events pay for emergency services, or have to reimburse the local agencies for such. Oh, and don’t forget the insurance policy on the whole thing! Can’t be left hanging if some crazed reenactor goes postal! And all this must have a nice pile of legal documents…..

Honestly, I think the people who “make money” on these events are really the suppliers and agents offering the supporting services.

21 11 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Oh, I don’t doubt that what you say is true. Things cost money. My concern is the apparent – APPARENT – assumption of ROI. Too much of heritage tourism planning lately seems to anticipate throngs of tourists everywhere at once, dropping bucks.

21 11 2009
Craig Swain

I’ve listened to a few of the pitches with regard to this event. Doesn’t seem like they are in the Tom and Jerry mode here. A few of the objectives are, at least on the surface, altruistic – more interpretation, preservation, etc. We shall see. Let’s not be hasty to judge a book by the cover.

20 11 2009
Brad Davidson

In this age of political correctness, I’m surprised a reenactment funded with taxpayers money is being considered at all.

24 11 2009
Manassas News « Bull Runnings

[...] in question.  I think he may have sent me these as a result of some of the comments made in the Dress-Up post.  Check them [...]

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