Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cracker Country-Living History Museum

For free museum day we went to Cracker Country, a living history museum in Tampa. Florida. I chose this site mainly for the various activities available for children. My son had a blast with some of the old toys and games. It reminded me a lot of the summer I volunteered at Old Bethpage Village Restoration and taught similar games to the visitors.

Cracker Country is next to the state fairgrounds and the fair seems to be the main event of the year for this historic site. For special events and during the fair, all buildings are open and there are numerous men and women in historically styled clothing. These are all volunteers and very few attempt to do first person interpretation, which is appropriate considering the difficulty of keeping in character. In addition it meant that I could ask all kinds of questions! :)

I spoke with one of the few full time employees. This man handles all of the historic building repairs and also owns the cracker horse and quarter horse that are mainstays in the historic interpretation of the cracker lifestyle. He had recently rebuilt the corn crib from the ground up based on his memory of the old one. This was rather a large undertaking and usually his projects consist of re-shingling roofs and replacing boards as needed. He occasionally uses reclaimed wood, but more frequently uses bought wood that he lets age prior to use. He uses historic tools and modern power tools. All in all, it seemed that Cracker Country takes the most practical approach towards the building and maintenance, if it needs fixing, it gets fixed up! 

I was also impressed by the handicap ramps on every building. They were seamless with the buildings, unlike so many ramps that stick out like a sore thumb. I also asked about the preservation conditions of the artifacts stored in the houses. In many cases they are displayed till it is no longer practical and then another item is found to replace it, there were also a lot of reproductions used by the interpreters (and visitors) for the actual hands-on activities. Corn cob checkers, ball and hoop games, I got to admit it was a lot of fun!

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Archaeology, Conservation and Curation by Whitney Rose Petrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License