Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Unique

Amy at The World Is A Book has traveled to many unique cultural sites around the world, and she challenges us to share something UNIQUE.

Funny thing is, there are a lot of unique things that seem pretty common. Like snowflakes. Each one is unique, but where I come from, they’re also common. People. Trees. Same thing. So…how about….

MUSEUMS! I was raised up loving museums. My parents were members of some of the best in the land — the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, for instance. When I was 10, they signed me up for classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Five years ago, I worked part time at two different museums in Wisconsin: Discovery World and Old World Wisconsin. Then, I began to work for a land trust in Washington County. The President of the Board of Directors runs a private fire service museum called The Venerable Fire Collection.

Working at a museum is a very stimulating job. Initially, there’s the excitement of learning as much as you can about the subject of the museum. Then there is the thrill of sharing those discoveries with the public – young and old and everyone in between. Some days are downright exhausting. You spend hours on your feet, responding to a stream of visitors with questions. Other days, the visitors stay away in droves. You pace the same space over and over again, looking at the same artifacts. Still, you pinch yourself and calculate how lucky you are to be able to spend a whole day in a museum AND get PAID for it!

Eventually, I grew so attached to those places that on my off day, I would visit with my camera. Here are some of my favorite shots from the Wisconsin museums I mentioned. Can you guess which photo was taken at which museum? 

I look forward to discovering many more museums in my lifetime. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: History

When I saw that Patti’s challenge to us this week was History, I knew just where to look in my photo files — Old World Wisconsin. I was a historical interpreter for this 480-acre living history museum for three seasons. I interpreted 19th century life in Wisconsin dressed as an Irish immigrant, a German immigrant, and a church organist in a settler’s Village.

When I was allowed to bring my 21st century camera on site, what I wanted to capture was the simplicity of that life and its harmony with nature.

The ideas of “progress” and “technology” were quite different in the day. I used to ask school children if they saw any technology being used, and they always said, “No.” What I quickly pointed out was that there was plenty of technology, just a different kind – mechanical or hand tools instead of electronic ones.

It’s important never to neglect or abandon the simpler items in our tool kit. It’s quite possible that we may depend on them again. In fact, the U.S. military sent a division to the museum to learn how to use 19th century farm equipment so that they could assist in re-development projects in Afghanistan. Watching them walk down the dirt roads of the Village dressed in their desert camouflage uniforms was mind-boggling.

The lesson of history is that wisdom takes a long view.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Architecture

I’m so impressed with Amy’s beautiful challenge post of the architecture of Machu Picchu with the accompanying audio that I’m going to have to go in a completely different direction for my post so as not to invite comparison.
After the sublime…the ridiculous.

And the humble.

Happy Interdependence!

And under this costume is, of course, the corset.

The Corset

scillagrace

We survived the festivities at Old World Wisconsin in 104 degree heat!  I wore a very special costume that had only been worn once before.  It was silk and “tropical weight” wool with beautiful accents of military buttons and lapels and florets. 

I was interviewed by Fox 6 News about my experience wearing 19th century clothing in the heat.  I relayed information about what I was wearing and how it felt and then said that I thought people in the 19th century lived more closely in harmony with their environment instead of trying to manipulate or change it.   Therefore, they get used to variations in temperature and become more resilient….or something like that.  Then I went into the church and played a few hymns on the pump organ while the assembly sang.  Then another interpreter took over and I sang descants along to some more hymns.  When that concluded…

View original post 234 more words

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wisconsin Tour Guide

“Share with us an image, or two, or three, (or more!) of where you live.” 

If you look up over this post title, you will see two links to separate pages labelled “Wisconsin Historical” and “Wisconsin Outdoors”. You will find quite a few more than three photos there!

I moved to Wisconsin 7 years ago from Illinois, and have absolutely fallen in love with my new home state. I used to summer at Girl Scout camp as a child in northern Wisconsin, but I’ve come to feel like I’ve always belonged outside, here, even after living for 15 years in California. When I first moved north, I worked for 3 summers at Old World Wisconsin, a 575-acre living history museum that recreates 19th century farm and town settlement. Last year, I moved onto a property that is owned by the land trust that employs me. I have thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by 56 acres of Wisconsin woodland, wetland, and restored prairie. 

Wisconsin is a ridiculously photogenic state. It can take your breath away, fill you with pride, and surprise you at every outing. When we’re out hiking, my partner Steve very often just flings wide his arms and remarks (to nobody in particular), “Ladies and gentlemen — Wisconsin!”

Yes, it deserves your attention and applause. Here’s why: 

Tour Guide

Irish Roots

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I woke up with Irish on my mind – soda bread and potatoes and cabbage soup and immigrants.  As a costumed historic interpreter at Old World Wisconsin, I told the story of Mary Hafford, an Irish immigrant, and worked in her house.  She had been widowed in the year 1868 with 3 small children and lived as a renter in a small village near Watertown, WI.  Mary Hafford worked away at her home laundry business and eventually achieved social and economic prominence in her little village.  In 1885, she had a new house constructed on the property that she had bought.  She never learned to read or write, but her children did.  Her youngest daughter, Ellen, studied dressmaking, a skilled trade, and became a live-in dressmaker.  Ellen was married in 1891, and her mother hosted a reception and dinner for 75 guests.  Three months later, Mary Hafford died of dropsy.  I imagine Ellen Hafford Thompson and wonder what stories she might have written about her life in the Little House where she lived.  I have a burning question: what happened to her older sister, Ann, who is conspicuously absent from all records from the mid-1880s on?  Did she die?  If so, why isn’t she buried next to her father & mother?  Did she go into a convent?  Did she elope with a Lutheran?  The mystery remains unsolved!

Mary Hafford’s family has died out; she had one grandson who went into the priesthood, and there her bloodline was cut off.  My children have 2 Irish great-grandmothers, one on my side and one on their dad’s side.  Marion Minto Keefe (possibly O’Keefe originally) was my grandmother.  Mabelle Claire Mahanna was my husband’s grandmother.  I used to wake them up on St. Paddy’s Day with “Top o’ the marnin’ to ya, dear!” at which they’d groan and ask me if I was going to talk in that fake accent all day.  The groans subsided at the thought of the corned beef dinner I always made.  I remind them now of their heritage via text message and think wistfully of the hint of green in their eyes — two daughters with brown eyes flecked with green, and my two middles, boy and girl, with blue-green-gray eyes.   I hope that green will remain on the land and in the eyes of its people for many years. (For a beautiful reading of an Irish Blessing poem, by a real Irishman, visit my friend Jamie’s blog here.)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Warmth

How did people in the northern land of Wisconsin stay warm through those hard winters in the 19th century, without electric blankets, natural gas furnaces or radiators?  Wood fires, wool, fur and the sauna…naturally.

Seems pretty simple to me. 

(In response to the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge.)