When I started my interpretive experiences back in 1961 it all revolved around he centennial of the American Civil War. I ‘enlisted’ in a group that recreated a company of soldiers from a Virginia infantry unit. I was the drummer boy and was excited beyond words looking forward to the events and battle recreations I would become involved in. The standard uniform was available through either the Sears or Wards catalogs. These stores provided a selection of either Union or Confederate uniforms with the option of having the rank chevrons or shoulder boards sewn on the uniform at time of ordering or shipped separately. The material for most of these uniforms; nylon and rayon coats and trousers and a selection of shirts that included the same dress white shirt that could be bought for ‘civilian’ purposes (going to church, school functions, and dressing for holidays) as well as the same gray shirt that could be ordered for the NPS and Corps of Engineers. Hats could be ordered through the same companies and came in the kepi style and a flop hat intended for ‘Rebs”. Groups allowed any boots or dark shoes. The buttons on said uniforms were interesting; most were original U.S buttons and a small number of reproductions. The same could be found with belt buckles and most of the firearms used by the groups. This was a time when we could buy an original Civil War musket in Sharpsburg, Maryland for about $25. I remember that we the older guys were using shot gun shell primers and original Civil War musket caps for shooting their firearms. Other equipment was as could be manufactured, found at surplus stores, or through a very few period recreation businesses. My first canteen was made of a tin coffee can that had loops soldered on it and was painted NPS green. Needless to state, authenticity was not the primary goal and, due to all too few resources, was rarely available.
The years and decades since have provided new resources that supply a much larger inventory of quality and authentic materials for not only that period representation but also nearly every historic period in European and American history. In speaking with a young man that I have done programming with his entire life (32 years) the other day we put together a list of 37 resources for American military materials covering from the 1830’s through the American Civil War, and that’s just for uniforms and equipment.
Things changed, and professionally, I say for the better.
Yeah, I know, pretty boring stuff to many.
NAI is changing. As a member for over twenty years I have seen a great many changes in the organization: member dues, three strategic plans, logo, mission statement, markets, sections, board makeup and duties, various task force needs, partners, administration, three major by law changes, &c., &c., and what I can state is that none of these have been change just for change’s sake. Each has been initiated by need and by the desire for improvement of the organization. More changes are coming and are being addressed now. As examples; our annual meeting and workshop will now be a conference. This offers a more professional setting and new options. It is something that will occur gradually and will offer new opportunities for presentations and for recruitment. That is a very quick synopsis of what is changing in our main organizational activity.
Training and certifications are regularly going through reassessments and improvements each year. The certification processes we had in the past are changing and improving. The system is improving for he better.
Our Awards system is changing, now allowing more members to be recognized for their important and dedicated work to NAI and many fields of professional interpretation.
The sections and regions are all now part of our collective Organizational Units promoting better use of our members skills and providing sub-organizational units that meet our members needs.
And the list goes on, as it should.
Change is difficult. It takes time and sometimes a great deal of personal effort to take all of it in and find a place where these changes meet our personal needs and to find how we each can find a place where we can best serve or fields of interpretation, our employment and NAI.
Personally, and ironically for someone who specializes in recreating the past, I , on the whole, welcome change. It challenges me, it keeps me learning, and hopefully fresh in my field, and it excites me to be a part of a growing and vibrant organization. In truth, like my field, if each had staid static and immobile representing only what each had been when I joined each, I would have left a long time ago. Growth change is vital to keep an organization healthy, our fields healthy, and myself mentally healthy.
Maybe it is all from being influenced by a song whose composition included the words, “Cha-cha-changes…”