Young campers at the Thomas T. Taber Museum’s Summer History Day Camp took a step back in time to experience many different aspects of life in the 19th century.
Students learned how to walk like a Civil War soldier in the Union Army and what toys they would have played with if they were born in the Victorian era, to name a few.
The museum has hosted the camp for more than 20 years and it has since expanded to include many different aspects that children ages 8 to 12 would find interesting, said Gary Parks, director of the museum and the Lycoming County Historical Society.
“It started out as just a study of Native American life and the colonial era,” said Parks. “But we’ve since expanded it to include WWI, WWII and this week’s Civil War era.”
Parks and camp coordinator Pat Damaska try to cover all aspects of the chosen era during the week in a way that directly engages and interests campers. “We really try to touch things that would interest children,” said Damaska. “There is something for every taste.”
Both Parks and Damaska said there’s a reason the camp has lasted so long: it actually offers something you rarely find elsewhere.
“It brings history to life” said Parks. “You can buy any number of manuals, but nothing can compare to seeing the clothes, watching the historian reenact.”
The camp uses the museum’s connection with various reenactors from across the state to bring this story to life.
Last Friday, Wayne Sager, a Civil War re-enactor, and Heather Hibbs, a Victorian-era and Civil War re-enactor with a focus on domestic life, were showcasing period clothing with authentic historical artifacts to show attendees. students.
Hibbs’ presentation focused on toys from the Victorian and Civil War eras.
“Think about all the toys you have at home”, Hibbs told the campers. “Remove anything rubber…remove anything electrical or that has batteries…remove anything plastic…Do you have anything left?”
Sager led campers through formations, inspections, and marching drills that a Union Army soldier would have experienced in the early 1860s, while giving students interesting facts along the way.
“Who has problems with his left and his right” Sager asked. “Well, a lot of Union Army soldiers did that too. You had farm boys who had never heard of left and right before so what they did was put straw and hay on one of your feet so the soldiers could watch down and remember which direction was which.
Earlier in the week, students met Queen Victoria, made authentic crafts, t-shirts and drums, and learned about baseball history. “That’s what immediately comes to mind” said Damaska. “But they did a lot this week.”