Friday, April 11, 2014

Taking a Writer Back in Time: Pioneer Farm Museum

For a historical writer, first-hand accounts of the time period and well-researched history books are wonderful resources, but sometimes the answer to a pesky question can only be found by going back in time.  I would have loved to hitch a ride with the Doctor or hop into Mr. Verne's time machine, but for my current work in progress, set in Washington Territory in 1866, I opted for something a little more easily obtained:  a trip to Pioneer Farm Museum near Eatonville, Washington.

Pioneer Farm is one of those wonderful museums geared toward children, so everything is very hands on.  That’s an incredible bonus to a writer.  In a more traditional museum, many things are behind glass, so you can describe what your eyes see but only guess at the other senses.  At a museum like Pioneer Farm, you get to touch and smell and taste and hear what life was like in the late nineteenth century on the frontier.  I gleefully followed our tour guides around from the general store to the school house to the three cabins, barn, and blacksmith’s shop, peppering them with questions and poking my nose into everything.

So, what did I learn on my visit?

Planked wooden floors creak.  With every step. 

 Forges fired with coal really stink.

Oil lamps aren't really bright enough to read by, but they do warm up a curling iron nicely.

It takes a lot of time and work to grate enough cinnamon for one pie.

A lady could lay in the bottom of a wagon bed and not be noticeable from the street (key plot point, there!).

Pioneer Farm Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing living history, environmental, and cultural education through hands-on activities.  If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend a visit. 

I know some of you have been to great museums in your area.  Any recommendations to share?


Darlene Marshall said...

If you're ever in N. Florida, I recommend Dudley Farm near Newberry, FL, an authentic working farm, not a recreation. I've been there for cane grinding and other events:

Regina Scott said...

Neat, Darlene! Thanks!

QNPoohBear said...

I love love love living histoy museums. There are a bunch in this area, as I'm sure you discovered while visiting Marissa. Plimoth Plantation is the gold standard of living history museums! The interpreters are in first person and can't answer questions about anything past 1624 or whatever year it is. It's amazing! Sturbridge Village is also really nice but I haven't been there in many many years. Colonial Williamsburg is another gold star location. They have living history in first person, living history tour guides in period dress but modern personas, decorative arts history, gardening and much more. Jamestown was disappointing when we went as a family. My all time favorite, Astors' Beechwood Mansion, closed recently. You got a tour of a Newport mansion from a friend, family member or servant of the Astor family. Once I even met Jack ASStor (how he introduced himself), before he died on Titanic, of course.

Regina Scott said...

Yes, you are very blessed, QNPoohBear to have so many wonderful places in your area! Colonial Williamsburg is definitely on my bucket list to visit, as is the Mystic Seaport.