Thursday, April 12, 2012

Teaching How To Do By Doing

The Warwick Historical Society is entering a new era in educating the public about the community’s past. This new education offering consists in part of the hands-on variety with classes in how do things like they were once done. The rationale for doing this type of programming, beyond educating people about the past,is that some of this stuff is not only aesthetically pleasing but making something yourself is a bit empowering. And a little bit of self empowerment is good these days as we wrestle with the product of things that seem so far from our own control.

For me, when talking about the concept of learning by doing or experiencing first hand a course in blacksmithing comes to mind. There was a time a little over three years ago when I knew practically nothing about blacksmithing; I had seen the occasional living history blacksmithing scenario at a museum, but unless you’ve actually lit a coal fire, heated a piece of metal to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, and beaten it with a heavy hammer into another shape than what it started out to be, you really haven’t experienced it.

The concept is quite simple, but the skills required to do it only evolve after countless repetition. I can make just about anything if I set my mind to it, but it may take me a long time and some failed attempts as a result of overheating my metal too many times to accomplish the task. I have seen guys, and gals, put the required time in and do a whole lot better than I can do in a short time, but the important thing is we can do it for ourselves. We can make that set of strap hinges to hang a door or the hook and eye to latch it once we’ve hung it, and at that moment we have that rare connection with our American brothers of yore; we’ve made it ourselves from scratch just like the Village Blacksmith under the chestnut tree of Longfellow's famous verse would have or even like Paul Revere of a "Call to arms" fame would have hammered out a silver teapot while at his day job.

In starting on the road to this type of traditional arts and skills programming for the organization we get to connect with a whole new demographic comprised of those who really get a charge out of doing stuff themselves or, at least, if given the opportunity through a program orchestrated by us they will rise to the occasion.

Probably, the most exciting new offerings of the Historical Society will be a class in post and beam barn construction. This hands-on workshop class will give the participant the opportunity to work with rough cut lumber and work exclusively with hand tools, and perhaps make a few tools for the purpose of building a barn in the process. We will build together an 18' x 28' barn!

This tentative project begins actually with the felling of trees; this will be solely a watch and learn experience. The Historical Society tentatively plans to be the host location for a safety class in tree felling. Unfortunately, disease is now steadily killing the white ash tree population. There are seven victims targeted for felling behind Baird’s Tavern and the Hasbrouck Carriage House in Warwick's Village. Once felled the trees will be sawed into boards, stacked and dried for a year’s time at another location. The lumber will be used for interior work at a later date.

A foundation will be constructed outside the Village on nearby farmland for the follow-up project---building the wooden barn structure. Students will partake in the construction of sill work and frame composed of rough cut cedar and hemlock, including 8 x 8s, 4 x 4s and 2x4s. The framework for a roof will be constructed using similar lumber sawn for the purpose; the framing will all be sheathed with 2 x 6s. The side sheathing will be traditional board and batten. 2 x 2 battens will be sawn offsite. Conventional 8p, 10p and spikes will be used as fasteners. Used windows and doors will be used in the construction.

The last part of the construction will include further processing of wood materials. The tentative choice of roofing will be hand split cedar shingles. Students will create the shingles using a froe , wooden mallet and shaving horse.

Stay tuned for the project's realization.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Marketing Strategies for Historical Societies in a New Era

Having visited more than my fair share of museums, historical societies, and historic houses, I have become aware of some of the challenges that especially smaller institutions face in the wake of ever increasing competition for the time of their potential audiences. Not only has television and mass media in general changed the publics’ recreational activities, but many for profit corporations have seized a significant market share of what was once the domain of nonprofit museums and historical societies. They have become more relevant to the lives of “ordinary Joes” than the nonprofit community could ever hope to be, and one reason is their use of technology in the realization of cutting edge exhibitions, cultural programming, and edutainment. This alone threatens especially small institutions with small budgets.

This competition from the for-profit sector has made it necessary for small nonprofit cultural institutions like the local historical society to consider marketing strategies like they never have before. Marketing, with its traditions of competition, has often been seen by historical societies and many small museums as something for them to resist, as the collection, preservation, and dissemination of a community’s history or art has been perceived as a cause of a higher order and solely dependent on charity and altruism rather than the marketing strategies necessitated and used in pursuit of profit. The point still missed by many is that such strategies can make an institution greater at serving a larger portion of their community.

Successful marketing strategies are founded on an understanding of the public and their needs, or perceived needs. Small institutions, like the local historical society, need to step up to the plate and deliver new and attractive ways of presenting themselves. They must drive the point home that they are the real thing, a place where meaningful objects and trustworthy information can be found and serve a role in the lives of their community members. In doing this they negate all the fears about taking on the agenda of marketing.

Historical societies also need to embrace the history of more than the elite of the past, present other periods in history than merely the distant past, and, finally, take on the untraditional role of documenting and presenting their community’s more recent past through the mediums of our own time---digital photography and audio in order to more effectively disseminate the information they have, namely much of their collections that are in storage for long periods of time. They need to become more relevant to generations that have embraced new digital media.

Taking on the point of view of visitors, or potential visitors, may mean that the local historical society must transcend merely the historical narratives of the 17th-19th centuries and seek to satisfy the current demand for twentieth century nostalgia by baby boomers, Gen-Xers, and the like. This could be a strategy that will result in drawing more people into the institution’s fold for further growth and initiate some needed enthusiasm among greater numbers for the historical society’s existing collections.

In saying this, I am reminded of institutions in which very dedicated individuals scratch their heads and wonder why they have so few younger and middle aged among their membership. Of course, this is a demographic that is busy raising families and working, but they do have leisure time, and the question the historical societies should be asking is how do we make our institution relevant to this group and make them want to spend that leisure as a visitor to our facility or involved in the collecting of local history and its dissemination through education.

What might be some of the specific marketing strategies that would make these historical societies more relevant? The Andover Historical Society (AHS) in Andover, Massachusetts has sought to reinvent how their community members come to know about what they offer. Not long ago they struck upon the idea of organizing a farmers’ market where one no longer existed. Small farms have sprung up in increasing numbers in the past few decades in this suburban community not far from Boston. A local high school student actually sparked the idea when she contacted AHS and asked whether there were any markets in the area to sell garden produce. AHS sent out feelers about the possibility of them creating a market on the small village lot that they own, and many local farmers were ecstatic about the idea.

The Historical Society provided rental space for these local farmers right next to the historical house they maintain. This situation has allowed for this institution to participate in the making of local history rather than merely preserving the long-ago past. This scheme not only resulted in added revenues but renewed interest in the historical society. As people came out to buy produce, they seized the opportunity to walk the grounds, ask questions about the historic house, and visit it. The historical society used the opportunity of having the public on their grounds on a regular basis for the purpose of buying produce to provide outdoor programming and events more frequently. There was significant free press coverage through this arrangement as well.

This historical society has attracted a whole new demographic to their membership that includes young families. Many among this new membership admit never knowing about the historical society before or having dismissed it as not for them. Prior to this phenomenon, membership consisted almost exclusively of senior citizens who were largely interested in seeking genealogical information from the historical society’s research facilities. The farmers’ market also served thematically the 19th century offerings of the historic house; workshops in traditional crafts were eventually developed to coincide with market days.

Historical societies have other opportunities of making a greater connect with the public. These might include providing “edutainment” like summer film festivals which include discussion forums. Viewing could be offered outdoors. With the number of local cable channels available today small museums might present some of their collection holdings in televised exhibits, which may include simply having a curator or scholar talk about an artifact that stands before them. Video tours of historical houses and sites and re-enactments could be the stuff of such cable programming.

Digital videotaping has made such a possibility affordable. Programming could also be assisted by cooperative partnerships with local schools, colleges, and budding historians and media production professionals. It seems logical that a local historical society could market itself by taking a more active role in the technologies that pose a threat to their own survival as a strong competitor for the time of the public.

Historical societies could establish greater relevancy by actively participating in the current documentation of their community for future generations. An oral history project comes to mind which entails recording the stories of the living community. How about collecting artifacts and narratives from more recent history rather than waiting until they become a rarity or nonexistent? A community’s history is a complex fabric of individual and group experiences. So why not approach the mission to preserve history in new ways; for example, orchestrating a reunion of local amateur garage bands from the 60s, 70s, and 80s might serve to attract a whole new demographic to the cause and mission of the historical society.

Something as unique as re-uniting such bands and having them play for the community might be the lengths the historical society has to go to survive, for we have to ask ourselves who is it that is going to be preserving our community’s history after we’re gone? What will become of the chapters in history that we experienced first-hand in an age of few letter writers and a preference for the extraordinary by the news gathering media of our time over the more commonplace experiences of us all. Will the unique character of our community survive for future generations to know and appreciate when so little of it is destined to be preserved?

Historical societies have an obligation to preserve our more recent history now. Broadening the scope of the artifacts and narratives collected and making use of digital media, which makes it possible to store huge amounts of information in a very small place that can be disseminated to the whole world, is among the important steps to take in marketing the historical society to more of the public. By doing this we can better insure that there will be someone to inherit this institution and meet the responsibility of both preserving the past and sharing it with future generations.

Warwick Historical Society's Oral History Archive Project

What are oral histories, and what is the oral history archive project? Simply, the oral history archive project involves finding individuals with stories to tell about life in Warwick, interviewing them, and, in the process, recording the stories and details that unfold. Often this storytelling process is inspired by photographs, and this project will be specifically linked to an effort to get community members to share photographs from the community’s past for the sake of digitally scanning them to be preserved in our archive; the original images will be retained, unless donated, by the participants.

A successful oral history interview is one that seeks a specific goal rather than depends on happenstance. In order to prepare to do an interview of an individual it would first be necessary to do some research about them. Additionally, the interviewer should speak to the interviewee before a formal session is arranged, and this might be done over the phone. In my experience, information about the interviewee might come through an acquaintance, friend, or relative of the sought after individual. In one instance, mention of a sought after individual mentioned in a poll tax entrée in a 1941 annual report from a municipality served as my only information to inspire conversation. Mentioning details from this document reminded the interviewee of the year before entering military service which included participating in one of the last ice harvests of a local commercial ice company.

Other publically accessible government documents might also be consulted to prepare for interviews. Dates of birth, relatives, resident addresses, occupations, and other like information accessed through census, voting, probate, legal, and other information found in municipal archive sources; genealogical records are sometimes housed in municipal spaces, as is the case of the Orange County Genealogical Society located in the 1841 Courthouse Building in Goshen, NY.

Another aim of this project is to make living connections with material culture and structures in the collection of the Historical Society of the Town of Warwick as well as instances of daily lives, occupations, and community happenings. As this organization seeks to both collect and preserve narratives about this past century, the 20th, the oral history project particularly solves the many problems associated with taking on the responsibility of preserving the entire history of a community rather than any one particular period in its history. Unlike the organization’s considerable collection of 18th century and early 19th century material culture, this project will not require period buildings and/or storage for the purpose of preserving it. Oral histories and digital scans of related photographs can be almost exclusively stored on one external hard drive.

Such an oral history resource will assist in scholarly research as well as the future and continued use of a working collection of tools and equipment for hands-on learning of traditional arts and skills from the occupations, trades, and light industries of the Town of Warwick’s history. It is recognized that such a collection will ultimately serve as a reference resource for those seeking to imitate and possibly apply the use of these tools and equipment, skills, and know-how to their own contemporary lives beyond the museum site.

Oral histories associated particularly with both civilian and military life during the Second World War will be a starting point to the goal of creating a more comprehensive collection of oral histories that serve to preserve the Town of Warwick’s long-standing cultural diversity and heritage. The museum’s own collection would be of central importance to this primary source information gathering, but beyond that many with first-hand knowledge of similar objects, their uses, and their personal experiences have come to be known by the museum on a continued and frequent informal basis as these individuals have sought connection with the Historical Society. These experiences will be recorded as well.

Realizing that these narratives of historical significance are destined to be lost soon, the creation of an oral history archive is underway; it is anticipated that this project will not only preserve the stories of a passing generation but that it will also facilitate many intergenerational experiences between students and senior interviewees. The oral history project will not focus exclusively on an older generation, for it is understood that residents of all ages may be participants. This inclusivity will result in a greater sampling of citizens from the community rather than those who have survived amongst their contemporaries to tell their story from a particular generation.

To insure dissemination of these recorded digital oral histories, space will eventually be provided on the museum’s website to upload them as they are created to provide greater accessibility. The unloaded “histories” will be excerpts from larger recordings highlighting points of obvious interest to the public. The most labor intensive part of this project, and a standard practice of this type of information resource gathering, will be the print transcription of the recorded oral histories. Volunteers will be sought in order to accomplish this task.

The Historical Society has recently received funds to purchase some ZOOM Handy Recorder H2 digital recorders with USB connectivity and a USB cable for uploading. A portable external hard drive for storage is also essential to store the anticipated large digital audio files and their eventual word-document transcriptions. A laptop computer capable of processing and uploading large digital audio files from digital recorders as well as to serve in the process of uploading digital audio files to the museum’s website is necessitated. A free download of digital audio editing software, Audacity, is available for PC users, and this will be utilized for this oral history project.

Volunteers interested in participating in this oral history project should contact us at: or 845-986-3236.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Oakland Theatre

To call attention to the upcoming Summer Silent Film Festival that is planned for Sunday and Monday, July 29 and 30 at the A.W. Buckbee Center the following is reminiscent of Warwick's own silent film past. The Oakland Theatre served as not only a venue for silent films, but vaudeville, radio broadcasts, opera, and vivic fundraisers, to name a few.

The Warwick Valley Dispatch, November 26, 1913
Oakland Theatre
Work on Smith’s Opera House is Progressing Finely

Contractor A.C. Altman of Goshen is pushing along rapidly the construction of the “Oakland Avenue,” for Harry P. Smith, which is the first invasion of Oakland avenue by business enterprise in the history of the village. That it will be an ornate structure and a credit to the street and village is the belief of all familiar with the plans and purposes of the owner.

Strength and safety are the two essentials of its construction. The sidewalls are of hollow tile, cemented together. Substantial brick piers, firmly bedded, support the steel eye-beam girders that carry the weight of the roof. The exterior front will be of stucco, with red brick trim. The exterior side walls will be of stucco. The auditorium will be 45 x 100 feet; with a 25 foot ceiling. In front there will be a lobby, 10 x 20 feet, with two entrances and exits, each six feet wide; additional exits, one on each side, six feet wide, and a separate entrance and exit from the stage in the rear, will make it possible to empty the house in a few seconds.

There will be about 525 individual seats in the main auditorium and the gallery over the lobby and extending across the front corners of the building, will seat about 125 more, - all individual chairs. Several windows on each side, will afford light and air, the windows being well up from the floor level; and a large ventilator will be put in the roof.

On each side of the front lobby ladies and gentlemen’s check and cloak rooms will be provided. The stage will be 28 feet front and 20 feet deep, with commodious and handy dressing rooms on either side, fitted with modern conveniences.

A fire-proof wall will divide the auditorium from the stage.. Mr. Smith has yet decided as to the drop curtain. A complete outfit of stock scenery and stage apparatus will be installed. The moving picture machine, which will be placed in the centre of the gallery will be enclosed in a fire-proof booth; everything will be in strict conformity with the fire-safety laws. The indirect lighting system will be employed, which enables late arrivals to find their seats without inconvenience during the progress of the show.

The building of this modern theatre is being watched with great interest by our citizens, and the belief is general that it is one of the events that mark the era of a greater Warwick. An ever increasing population is reasonably certain, according to all the information at hand, and the demand for entertainment is on the increase. That the present fad for the “movies” is pretty sure to be a permanent feature of our life is reasonably certain. Millions of capital are invested in the production of films all over the world; the speaking movies are not so far off either.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lecture Series: Francesco Mastalia

Francesco Mastalia, photographer, will talk about his use of the 19th century collodion photographic method. The wet plate method that involves the use of a large format wooden camera is employed in portraits produced for a recent book on organic farmers and restaurateurs from Orange County, NY and other projects. The lecture will be at the A.W. Buckbee Center, April 19, 7-8:30 PM. Free for members, $5 for non-members.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Warwick Historical Society's Special Programs for the Spring and Summer 2012 Season

Workshops: Members receive a 10% discount

If interested in the following, scroll through blog and find more detailed descriptions of workshops.

Beginning Jewelry with Michele Dixler/Three Wednesdays, 7-9PM/ $120

Make a necklace or earrings, includes materials, tools and instruction

April, 18th, April 25th, & May 2nd, 2012

Blacksmithing Class with Adriaan Gerber/ 2 days, 16 hours, 9-5PM, $375

Learn the techniques, make a few tools. All materials included.
For more information, call 845-781-3729
Saturday, April 28th & Sunday, April 29th

Follow-up to Blacksmithing Class/ 1 Day Make a Tomahawk Class & 2-Day Make a Hunting Knife Class, $125/$225

Format for classes: Forge shape from steel. Fold and weld. Prepare high carbon steel edge and weld to body. Draw out edge. Drift handle eye for tomahawk. Heat treat. Sharpen edge. Make a handle to fit. Throw.

Chair Caning with John Skelton Four Tuesdays, 7-9PM, $120

Bring your own chair frame, make a seat of cane, rush or reed. Materials and tools included.
April 17th, April 24th & May 8th, 2012

Woodworking with Dave Washburn, 2 Days, 10-5PM, $375

Make a shaving horse and a four-legged slab wood bench
Includes: shaving horse kit, vintage draw knife, and wood
Saturday, May 19th and Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Lecture Series/ Thursdays/ $5 --- Members Free

April 19th/7-8:30PM
Francesco Mastalia: "Using 19th Century Photography Methods in the 21st Century".

April 26th/7-8:30PM
Prof. Richard Hull: "A Village Apart in Orange County; History of the Hasidic People of Kiryas Joel".

May 3rd/ 7-8:30PM
Andy Angstrom: "Finding the World in Your Backyard; Archaeological Dig at Ashokan".

WHS curator Michael Bertolini and Prof. Richard Hull: "The Many Faces of Warwick's Architectural Heritage".

May 24th/ 7-8:30PM
Incorporated Orange County Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Society president David Johnson: "What Are We Missing at Our Archaeological Sites About Native American Cultures?"

May 31st/ 7-8:30PM
Robert Schmick, Ph.D., Executive Director, Warwick Historical Society: "Popular Wilderness Imagery in 19th Century Warwick Life".

June 7th/ 7-8:30PM
Glen Rhein, amateur mineralogist:"Giant Crystals of Amity, New York".

Call for additional information: (845) 986-3236; Email:

Beginning Blacksmithing at The Historical Society of the Town of Warwick

2 Days of Intensive Blacksmithing for Tuition/
16 Hours of Instruction/
Saturday and Sunday,
April 28 & April 29, 9AM-5PM

Tuition: $375, materials included

Class Limit: 6

Where: Hasbrouck Carriage Barn (Behind Baird’s Tavern). We will use portable forges.

Weather Dependent.

Instructor: Adriaan Gerber

Mr. Gerber is a full time blacksmith. He refers to himself as a “bladesmith”, as much of his creative output results in high quality knives, axes, and swords that he sells world-wide. These objects are entirely created by hand and without power tools, although most recently Mr. Gerber has employed the use of an antique trip hammer for the purpose of preparing the metal billets he uses in his work. Mr. Gerber’s home smithy is located in Lamoine, Maine, near Acadia National Park.

Show up to class with cotton clothing, no synthetics. Long sleeve shirts, no coats with nylon shells, safety glasses are required, and you might start out with a 2 1/2 or 3 lb. drilling hammer of your own( after you swing this a number of times it will feel heavier so I prefer the 2 1/2 lb. weight). There will be hammers and other tools to complete the class.

Day 1 / 9-5PM, 8Hours: Introduction to Safety, Materials and tools of the trade. Tapering. Drawing Out Metal. Heating, bending, twisting and shaping. Make a drift tool for punching holes. Tempering. Using the Cross Pein Hammer or drilling hammer to forge a basic s-hook. Decorative Bending. Setting down using half-faced blows. Make "S" Hook and/or "J" Hook. Forge a Set of Skewers or a fireplace poker with fancy handle(s).

More hot-cutting and splitting. Separating split parts for better access. Smoothing out cuts using the vise. Tapering to a square point. Drawing out metal. Forging square taper to octagonal and round. Flattening and twisting. Forging out a meat fork. Upsetting. Reducing metal width to form a neck. Preventing folds. Flattening. Drawing Down, bending and filing using the vise.

Day 2/ 9-5PM, 8 Hours: Using knowledge from Day 1 forge out a spatula (to be used for forge welding). Preparing for Welding. Upsetting and Scarfing. Fire Control For Welding. Using Flux. Forge Welding. Forging a spoon. Preparing for Welding. Upsetting and Scarfing. Fire Control For Welding. Using Flux. Forge Weld a Ring.
See Adriaan Gerber in action in this video (click):

Visit: and see Adriaan Gerber in action.

Woodworking: Making a Shaving Horse and Using It to Make a Bench

When: Sat., May 19 10-5PM & Sun. May 20, 10-5PM.

Where: Hasbrouck Carriage Barn (Behind Baird’s Tavern, 105 Main Street )

Tuition: $375 includes shaving horse kit, vintage draw knife, slab wood, and length of wood for legs. Sandpaper provided.

This weekend class would entail putting together a pre-fabricated shaving horse kit prepared by instructor Dave Washburn. Students will receive a vintage draw knife with the kit. Once the shaving horse is assembled, students will create a bench out of slab wood. Students will drill holes in slab wood with bit and brace, create legs on their shaving horse, assemble and sand to satisfaction a bench to take home.
The Warwick Historical Society is offering skills workshops for veterans , but anyone else interested in taking a class is welcome too. Orange County has a very large number of returning veterans, and we want to offer them opportunities to learn about some traditional arts and skills that they might enjoy doing and which might inspire a side business for them in the future. There will be a 10 percent discount on tuition for veterans with an ID.

Follow-up Blacksmithing Classes

Prerequisite: Offered to those with intermediate-level blacksmithing experience.

Those who recently completed the two-day intensive blacksmithing class.

All Classes Limited to 6 students

Class 1: Forging a Tomahawk/ 1 Day/ April 30, 1-6PM
Tuition: $125

Requirements: Cotton clothing, goggles, and gloves ( if preferred).

Forge a bowtie body out of steel. Fold over and forge weld the handle eye. Prepare steel bit. Insert and forge-weld blade edge. Cut to length. Draw out edge. Drift handle eye. File to final shape. Heat treat. Sharpen edge. Make a handle and fitting. Throw.

Class 2: Forging A Knife from Welded Cable Steel/ 2 Days/ April 1 & 2, 12-8PM (no power hammer needed)

Tuition: $225

Prepare the cable for welding.
Forge-weld the cable.
Draw down the cable to usable format.
Forge knife blank.
Demonstration of etching process.

Credit cards and checks accepted. Reservations: Call (845) 986-3236, or send an email to: For more information about the class, call: (845) 781-3729

History Camp, August 6-10, 9AM-2PM

A program with hands-on activities for boys and girls

Five Days of Unique Programming with Professional Educators

History is Fun!

Where: A.W. Buckbee Center (2 Colonial Ave.) and other Historical Society locations.

When: August 6-10, 2012, 9AM- 2PM each day

Cost: $175 per student, $150 each for siblings

Ages: 8-11


Experience a large weaving loom

Participate in sheep shearing, carding wool, learn to dye and spin wool and flax on a spinning wheel like residents of Warwick once did.

Experience a circa 1703 Lenape trade camp scene

Make wampum, Iroquois costume making and dance with Ken Hamilton, "Woodlands" Interpreter ( See "More on Ken Hamilton" below)

Instruction on native plants

Nature silhouettes/ portraiture

Revolutionary War era know-how.

Blacksmithing/ Make your own horseshoe nail ring with a real blacksmith!

Assist the blacksmith in the making of a tomahawk!

Learning experiences about early vegetable and grain growing.

Analyze artifacts and gain new insights into museum work

Make a walking stick using 18th century know-how

Learn about simple machines from the past


Measure, weigh, pull and lift using instruments from the past

See a chair caned with rush grass just like craftsman did in past centuries.

Tour the Historical Society’s historic homes and its collections.

For more information call: Robert Schmick, Executive Director of the Warwick Historical Society @ (845) 986-3236,

More About Ken Hamilton (from Ken Hamilton's promotional pamphlet)

Ken Hamilton is a 17th and 18th century living history Native “Woodland” interpreter. He has provided exciting Native American historical culture programs for over 20 years at schools, museums and historical sites. He has appeared in many documentaries and movies, and modeled for numerous historical artists. With his experience and expertise, he is an advisor for many historical projects. He has helped organize and coordinate public events such as re-enactments and various Native gatherings, to provide an entertaining and educational experience for both the public and participants alike.

As an historical reproduction artist, (blacksmith, stone carver, silversmith, etc…) he studies and reproduces many 17th and 18th century “frontier” related products including: French and Dutch knives, fancy spike and pipe tomahawks, trade silver (armbands, brooches, crosses etc.), wampum, birch bark containers, stone pipes, and many other objects relating to these eras. Fur trade “hardware” reproductions are his specialty. His work can be seen in numerous film documentaries, museum exhibits, private collections, and frontier orientated Native art galleries.

“Eastern woodlands” is a general term, which includes all of the North East and Maritimes, the Southeast, Great Lakes, and Ohio River valley. Through a variety of programs and venues, any area’s unique 17th or 18th century Native cultural history can be brought to life for you. Ken is able to create many different Native Woodland educational programs. By using his knowledge of culture and a vast array of reproduction objects (for visual impact) from the era, history can come alive for any age. You will be enthralled with the depth of your areas’ colonial Hative history.

A typical program includes a large display of European trade goods (including knives, musket, beads, kettles, blankets, beaver felt hat, etc…). and Native traditional objects (including stone and wooden tools, toboggan, snowshoes, clay pot, wampum, animal furs etc…). These two collections compare and contrast the various Native and European technologies and cultures during the colonial era, where each object can be a PhD dissertation in itself! The “Fur Trade” was the bridge between the Native and European cultures, and each audience can become “mini experts” in the colonial fur trade!

Outdoor venues can include a full encampment, with a lodge (i.e. wigwam), fire, and is a fully functioning habitation, this often includes the “trade Good” exhibit. Dance and drumming programs can also be arranged, but usually include other singers and or dancers, which can, of course, be performed indoors, usually in a gym.
Museum consultations and reproductions for historic sites, interpreters, and exhibits are also available. Whatever your need is.

The slide show can show your areas Native colonial history, or related topic. With the use of various contemporary 17th and 18th century images, paintings, drawings, maps and artifacts, will bring the era to life on a big screen. The program could be general or concentrate information that is relevant to any area of interest, (i.e, “Trade Guns”, 17th century Wabanaki History, “The French Connection” etc…) this program can be at least an hour long with time for Q & A.

The lodge program: Several different shaped Lodges (wigwams) used by the semi-nomadic hunting Native people of the Northeast, and were usually portable. The Wisconsin Menominee, for example had 13 different, named shelters! An encampment often includes both a little fire inside the lodge and a larger one outside, complete with a tripod and large brass trade kettle for cooking. Bedrolls, furs, kettle chains and hooks, axes, and other camp equipment are also part of this exhibit. Our family usually STAYS overnight (for the duration of weekend festivals or large Colonial encampments) in the fully functional lodge. Depending on the venue, the trade good exhibit can be part of the full camp…usually under a separate lean-to.

Interpretation of this exhibit is by authentically clothed presenter(s) with precise explanations of the entire exhibit. They are usually a relaxed, ongoing, daily format, and/or other specific (formal) talks given at certain times, daily, as well.
This program requires an outdoor area with the ability to have a campfire (a fire permit provided by the sponsor if applicable). The full exhibit includes a “wigwam” consistent with one of the types of traveling lodges found in the northeast and great lakes region. Large encampments may also include other hired interpreters, especially for an extended. This program gives the sights and smells of the woodland lifestyle.

The trade good exhibit will help you understand the vast commerce that existed between Native Americans and various Europeans. The fur trade in the north and deerskin trade in the south during the 17th and 18th centuries relate directly to the very exploration, settlement and eventual colonization by Europeans here in North America.

The fur trade was fundamental to American history!

This program will compare Native and European cultures (which sometimes co-existed and sometimes clashed), describe the interactions, (social, economic, military), and place European “imperial” and commercial interests in context with Native life. This exhibit will show how the “new” European products have changed the lives of Native Americans forever. Reproductions of these trade goods are included in the EXHIBIT.
Some of the items in this exhibit are the European (freight) Trade bales, knives, awls, spear/dard (French for “dart”) points. Tomahawks, brass kettles, a powder keg, axes, mirrors, pipes, a flintlock musket, fish hooks, clothes, blankets, textiles and beads. A comparative “Native” display shows traditional objects made from shell, stone, clay, bark wood and, of course, animal fur (especially the beaver) from which the Europeans made the fashionable “Beaver felt hat”. European products gradually replaced most of these objects, but many remained with some modification throughout the colonial period. This longevity showed the strength and importance of the original Native culture.

Silhouette Portrait Reservations for Sittings on June 9 & 10, 9AM - 5PM

The Historical Society of the Town of Warwick is taking reservations for sittings for handmade silhouette portraits by artist Jean Comerford. Sittings will take place 9AM -3PM, Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10, at the A.W. Buckbee Center (the former Albert Wisner Public Library), 2 Colonial Avenue, Warwick, NY.

Portraits in Silhouette, based in Hardwick, MA, is a mother-daughter business featuring portraits of famous New Englanders in Yankee magazine each month. Comerford is one of a handful of artists nationwide who continue the folk art tradition popular in the United States and Europe from the late 18th to the mid-19th century.

Dr. Robert Schmick, Executive Director, said “the silhouette portraits done by Ms. Comerford involve a set of very sharp and precise cutting scissors which she uses to snip out a profile of her subject from black paper which is then mounted on white card. What seems most amazing to watch is that through her skill she achieves a likeness in a matter of minutes.”

The cost is $30 per portrait, $10 for copies. For an additional fee, framing is available on site. To schedule silhouette sittings or to obtain information, call (845) 986-3236 or Part of the proceeds from the portraits will benefit the Historical Society and its current Shingle House Restoration Project.