The Future of Historical Interpretation

I grew up going to historical sites for family vacations. My Dad is an avid plaque reader. (We tried talking him into taking pictures of them, but he says it’s just not the same…)

Gotta love google images...no idea who these people are. But that's basically how it goes.
Gotta love google images…no idea who these people are. But that’s basically how it goes.

As a child history was BORING. Well, at least what I  thought was history was boring. Little did I know that all the wonderful costumed people I saw and heard were teaching me “GASP” history! Colonial Williamsburg was a frequent destination, they do particularly wonderful 1st person interpretation. (1st Person: They take on the persona/character of a historic figure and speak as if they are indeed that person. It takes massive amounts of research, knowledge and skill to pull off successful 1st person.) For me, and perhaps I’m biased… but having a costumed interpreter makes historic sites come alive. Which is where the term “Living History Museums” comes from. Having a good 1st person interpreter allows us modern day folks to step into a time machine and walk through Colonial (or whatever era) America.  Now bear with me as we jump back into the time machine and head to the future.

My husband has gotten me interested in watching Star Trek (except the Original…I dislike the original series…and the Borg…) We just finished watching all 7 seasons of The Next Generation, which saddens me. Captain Picard, and Data are by far two of my most favorite characters. Data in particular is the best Star Trek character across the entire trek universe.

Celebrity City (For those of you, who heaven forbid don’t know, Data is an Android. The first of his kind, we watch him struggle with what it means to be human, to have emotions, to understand all the little nuances of human interaction, like jokes for example. Though he is technically a machine, I think Data embodies humanity better than any other character.) So what on earth does Data of the 24th century have to do with interpretation in the 21st century?

I’m going to assume that humanity will continue to preserve our history and heritage, that whenever possible they will restore or rebuild historic sites. This of course will also include all of us today, since for Data we are 300 years in the past. I imagine that like today humanity will continue to be interested in learning about our history and heritage and cultures. Now just imagine what the museum experience would be like with the sort of technology! Let’s move forward another century or two, how about the 26th Century. Now the technology that allowed Data to function as an independent sentient being is widespread and human’s live side-by-side with Androids.

Wild West Data
Wild West Data

We could bring back to life different historic figures in the form of an Android. We could build a George Washington android and program him with all the different known events and accounts concerning George Washington. He would be the Ultimate 1st person interpreter. I expect that’s as close as we’ll ever get to meeting George…unless of course we manage to accomplish time travel.

1940's Data
1940’s Data

Imagine, going to Mount Vernon and taking a tour through the house and the grounds and there at the end is George sitting in his library to tell us of life in the New Colonies and answer any questions we might have.

Sherlock Data
Sherlock Data

Androids aside, and perhaps obtainable in nearer future. Holodecks anyone? We can literally recreate anything, anywhere. I’d like to go to a museum that is made up of a bunch of different holodeck rooms, programmed with all sorts of different historical places, people and events. You know Microsoft has begun to figure out this technology. That’s my retirement plan…When I get to be in my 90’s+, I’m going to live the rest of my days in a happy holodeck program. Plan B is to become a living history museum. I will recreate a home based on the 20th and early 21st century and allow tours to be given, I will be at the end of the tour like George Washington with my tea, cats and cozy chair in the living room, where I will gladly share what life was like before mP3’s, smart phones, DVD’s, smart cars, video games…you know when kids read books and used their imagination?

*note* all the pictures in the post I unashamedly borrowed from google images.

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