Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

History: Up Close and Fun Re-Enactors Put It in Perspective

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

History: Up Close and Fun Re-Enactors Put It in Perspective

Article excerpt

The practitioners of academic history and "living history"

aren't usually found in the same place.

While academic historians spend their days in libraries and

archives, researching and writing about the past, "living

historians," more commonly known as re-enactors, get together to

give public demonstrations that try to re-create some facsimile

of the past.

Jay Clarke, an academic historian who is an assistant professor

of history at Jacksonville University, decided it would be fun

to get the two groups together this past weekend.

The occasion was the annual meeting of the Florida Conference

of Historians, held Friday and Saturday.

As president of the conference, Clarke is the self-described

"idiot who volunteered" to organize this year's meeting.

Clarke put together a lineup of the usual presenters, among

them Emory Thomas, a University of Georgia historian who is

considered the pre-eminent living biographer of Robert E. Lee,

and Andre Safirov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

But he also invited some re-enactors to demonstrate their

approach to history. Two groups, one representing early American

artisans and one representing the Union soldiers who occupied

Jacksonville during the Civil War, spent much of Friday in the

area on the JU campus known as the valley, between the student

dorms and Swisher Gym.

The re-enactors were there to serve "as a bridge between us as

professional historians and the general public," Clarke said.

"It's a connection which I've been trying to make for a long

time," said Tuck Russell, head of SWEAT (Society of Workers in

Early American Arts & Trades).

Andrew Lowther, a history major at the University of North

Florida who was dressed as a Union army sharpshooter, agreed

that the unusual juxtaposition of panel discussions with

re-enactments could be good for both groups.

"I'd like to see academic people get into the hobby," he said.

"And I'd like to see re-enactors do more real research, instead

of just talking to other reenactors. …

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