Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Ultimate Research

I've always thought it would be so interesting to go back and live for a while in a time period like the 1880 on the prairie or in Jane Austen's England or the like.

Now I can, sort of.

I don't get a PBS station, so I'm just learning about the House series that PBS did 2002-2004. I'm renting them through Netflix and finding them to be very interesting. They put modern people into life as closely as the producers can replicate it on frontier Montana, in an Edwardian manor house, in a Regency home, and in a Colonial American house. It is interesting to see how people will adapt, but even better to see the antiques and old practices put to use in a real way. There is so much a writer can learn from it.

I suppose you might find an authentic sod house or cabin to rent and live in for a while, but it would require a lot of work to surround yourself with only the items for living that would have been available to people of a historical time period.

Have you followed this series?

I guess there are some other ways to put yourself into historical research. Has anyone ever done a wagon train excursion trip? What about a cattle drive on a dude ranch?

Are there other similar research tools I'm missing out on?


Susan Page Davis said...

I saw Colonial House and Frontier House and a little of the others. What impressed me most about Frontier House was that they said most of them would NOT have survived a winter there. And some of the families "cheated" by picking up modern things to use. On the colonial house, it was set in my stomping grounds of New England. The thing that bothered me most about that one was the people who agreed to take part then proceeded to break the rules every other minute. Some would not work, and some would not attend services on Sunday. They would not accept the colonial discipline, eihter. The governor pretty much had his hands tied when people simply refused to go by the rules and he, unlike Capt. John Smith or Governor William Bradford or other stout-hearted colonial governors, had no real authority with which to force them into compliance.

Cathy S. said...

Writers in the Midwest who are unable to spend a lot of time away but want to visit something authentic, may consider a place in Indiana.

Conner Prairie, located several miles north of Indianapolis, is a living history museum of the time period you're talking about.

I write nonfiction stories and contemporary fiction, so I haven't tried this. But For a newspaper, I interviewed a Barbour author, Ramona Cecil. One of her books was inspired by a trip to Conner Prairie.

Blissful said...

I really liked these series. The book on Frontier House is good also. We actually entered a video to try and become part of the cast for Colonial House. Didn't make the cut.. :)

I do a lot of my research by going to museums, seeing mock-ups of villages, touring historical sites or trying to see the actual settings.

Ramona Cecil said...

Cathy S. is right about Conner Prairie. I just love the place. In my opinion, its as well done as Williamsburg, VA. only smaller, and I've visited both places. We used to visit Conner Prairie often when our daughters were little. Always a poet, dreamer, and writer of journals, one trip there in the mid 1980's inspired me to try something I'd never done---write a novel. With its reenactors who faithfully stay in character, Conner Prairie made the 1836 Indiana prairie come alive for me. Years later that story idea became my first historical romance novel, Larkspur. The historical info I got from visiting the place as well as what is posted on their web site was invaluable as I researched my story. If you want to know what life on the Indiana prairie was like in 1836, visit Conner Prairie.

Pam Meyers said...

I watched one of these house programs. I think it was called the 1900 house. It was so interesting to watch how the modern family had to adapt to things we all take for granted. I think the lack of electrical entertainment was the hardest, especially for the kids. I'll have to look for the series on Netflix.

Erica Vetsch said...

I watched this series and really enjoyed them. I think my favorite was the 1900 house, mostly because of the teen girls in the house who were hilarious.

Mary Connealy said...

Are they still doing these series? I think our new TV set-up would get PBS now. I'd love to see this.

I have been hunting through museums. So cool, once I tell them I'm a writer...they let me TOUCH STUFF. I'd love to get my hands on a Winchest 73. I think TOUCHING thinks, lifting them, see how heavy they are can show itself in your work. We have a rifle (or a shotgun, not sure which) at home and my husband and I did a lot of fooling around with it (after being insanely careful to make sure it was unloaded) trying to get it into action fast. How would a strap work. Could it be moved quickly if it was hung across your back.
Trigger down or up. Muzzle on the left, hanging low and brought around under your arm, or sticking up high and jerked over your shoulder.