Another weekend, another historical adventure for the family. (Are you getting tired of this? I think my family is… although they always have fun once they’re there.) This weekend we sojourned west a bit to Old Sturbridge Village. Complete with a smithy, cobbler, potter, and lots of reenactors, this living history museum gives you a real sense of life in the early 19th century.
But oddly enough, with all the activity, Sturbridge lacks the sense of mystery of Paine House or the Battle Road Trail. Maybe it’s because even though all the houses at Sturbridge are antique, they have been moved from their original mise en scène. Or perhaps the many modern feet trodding over floor boards simply drowned out the echoes of the past.
Thus, I found myself in a different mode while visiting Sturbridge. No so much consumed with the mystique of a bygone era, I instead focussed on the details of colonial life lain before me: the strings of dried fruit tucked under the attic eaves, a simple dish drain made of wooden slats lain over an old soap stone sink, or the exquisitely wrapped packages at the general store. And the baskets. Everywhere you went there were baskets – in the kitchens and barns, by the wood pile and potato shed. Everything was hauled in hand woven baskets, each a different kind, and I wanted them all.
(I wonder if the colonists found their everyday objects as beautiful as I did. I think they probably didn’t have time to stop and ponder these matters.)
There was one glaring exception to the inspired working environments at Sturbridge: the school. By far the most austere and least imaginative space in the whole village, it seemed the least likely space to foster any kind of creative thought. With its low ceilings, characterless benches, and podium separating teacher from student, it was downright oppressive and depressing. (Let’s hear it for progress!)
Still it’s funny how, now, even as we recognize that educational spaces should be fun and inspiring, we are only just beginning to apply these same standards to the workplace. As more and more of us, working out of home offices and studios, begin once again to merge these two worlds, we will demand the same intentionally and inspiration from our surroundings. Once again learning from the past, while still holding on to what is good about the present.