Foodways Goes to Canada

Last June, I traveled to Calgary in Alberta, Canada, to take part in the 2014 Association of Living History Farms and  Agricultural Museums annual workshop.

I was asked to be a presenter at one session, where I shared  the story of researching and developing an interpretive plan for the James Anderson Armory Kitchen.

ALFAM_Melissa_BlankFor interpreters, the need for historical research is the first step in a lengthy process of developing a storyline for explaining the site to visitors. The snippets of information that are uncovered through historical research must be analyzed, viewed from different viewpoints and then placed in a timeline to help the overall story to unfold.

This can often be a daunting task for historic sites — and it can sometimes even be  abandoned for fear of being “too much trouble.”

My session to provided a working guideline and example for other historic sites to follow in updating their site interpretation.

Colonial Williamsburg has always had the benefit of having plenty of documentation and resources that provide historians with ample research topics and subject matter.

But in the case of the Armory kitchen, primary sources that relate specifically to food have been elusive. Prior to the current project, no kitchen sat on the site and therefore no interpretive goals or objectives were developed to provide a basic picture of how the food was procured, prepared or distributed.

At ALHFAM, participants saw an example of how taking on a difficult research project is not only worthwhile, but also easily be done by following some simple techniques.

For the Armory kitchen, Foodways has enlisted the help of staff from other trade shops, staff from Archaeology and Coach and Livestock, as well as the Rockefeller Library, to collaborate previous research into the current project. Outside sites and historians were also contacted to provide new information or clarify questions.

Through this collaborative effort, a clearer picture is coming into focus on how the Armory kitchen was run. We can also see the possible avenues of food procurement and the ways in which the resources of the site were used to meet the needs of the Anderson crew.

While there is still a long way to go on the historical research, Foodways will continue to develop the storyline and share the new developments with visitors to the Armory kitchen.

Historic Foodways Apprentice Melissa Blank

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