As one of those rapidly aging Baby Boomers, inventing and building things were staples of my childhood. Sure, we had TV (but only one), but Mom would throw us out of the house after a couple of hours of Saturday morning cartoons with instructions to “Go do something.” We had grand adventures exploring the creek, hiking through the pastures, building forts or taking things apart to see how they worked. Admittedly that last one sometimes got us into trouble.
You learned how to build things, and you learned how to repair things by helping the adults around you. At least this was true for those of us who lived in the country. If something broke you figured out how to fix it or you found a neighbor to help you. Now part of that was because, like most farm families, funds were limited, but more than that, people like my dad truly enjoyed building and fixing things. Somewhere along the way we traded the satisfaction of making something ourselves for cheap, mass-produced, thrown-away items.
But that might just be changing. The Maker Movement has been around for a few years and is gaining in popularity. This is a community of DIYS (do-it-yourselfers). This seems to be a group just waiting to be tapped by our living history sites. Many who would like to learn how to make things no longer know where to go to find the knowledge. Our sites can be their resource. I just took a quick look at MAKE, the movement’s magazine, and in a quick glance found the following articles: “8 Tips and Techniques for Making Homemade Cheese,” “Building a Child-Sized Kayak from a Single Sheet of Plywood,” “Crochet a Wonder Woman-Inspired Coaster Set,” and my personal favorite, “Building a Pumpkin Throwing Trebuchet.” Sounds like a great post-Halloween activity with the grandkids! Their website has how-to videos on blacksmithing and knife making.
You can also find step-by-step instructions for making this battleax prop. So many of the ideas are adaptable for exhibit/interpretation use.
What a possible treasure trove of new volunteers waiting to be tapped! The Maker Movement organizes Maker Faires around the globe. These are usually two-day events for the community to come together to share exhibits, knowledge, and skills. Have any of your sites participated in a Maker Faire or maybe even hosted one? I would love to hear about your experience.
ALHFAM board member Kathy Dickson is the director of Museums and Historic Sites for the Oklahoma Historical Society. She stumbled into the museum field over 30 years ago and never left.