Expanded Living History Day returns to campus

Living History Day-7767Students gather around a British encampment from the American Revolutionary War at last year’s Living History Day at Fredonia. 

So well-received was Living History Day a year ago at the State University of New York at Fredonia that the early American presentation will return to the campus on Thursday, May 30, with more sessions, a larger student turnout anticipated and a new state museum award in tow.

“It was very successful last year; it brought a lot of people – middle school students and members of the public – to campus,” said Department of History Associate Professor David Kinkela.

One teacher praised the event, which features reenactors, demonstrations, exhibits and hands-on activities, as very interactive, Dr. Kinkela recalled. “Another said students were able to get involved in the activities; they were unique and kept the students involved.”

Almost 1,100 middle school students are expected, far more than the 600 attending last year. Morning and afternoon sessions are reserved for students, while members of the public are welcome from 4:30 to 7 p.m. About 400 community members attended a year ago. Several food trucks will also participate. Living History Day is free and open to the public.

A French and Indian War encampment, exhibitions of family life and a soldier’s life during the American Revolutionary War and multiple lessons of traditional dance taught by members of the Seneca Nation are among a growing list of individual sessions that event organizer, the Boston (N.Y.) Historical Society, has arranged.

In fact, 40 different sessions, 10 more than a year ago, are planned, said Jason Steinagle, the society’s director of Education, Living History Day founder and a social studies teacher in Hamburg.

The society received a 2019 Award of Merit in the Engaging Communities category from the Museum Association of New York for last year’s Living History Day at Fredonia. A previous Living History Day iteration highlighting the Civil War received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.

All Living History Day attractions will be held inside and around the Williams Center; exhibitions and programs will take place inside, on both floors, with reenactors stationed in adjacent outside areas. The Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War, as well as the culture and history of the Seneca Nation, will be featured.

Returning reenactors include the 64th Regiment of Foot (British), from the Revolutionary War; Company A of the U.S. Engineer Battalion (American), from the Civil War; and Reynolds’ Battery (blacksmith, leatherwork, Confederate medical and canon demonstration). Also making appearances will be reenactors Uncle Sam; Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist; and Harriet Tubman, a women’s rights advocate.

Kinkela indicated reenactors are eager to return to the campus, and the campus is delighted to host the event again.

“They wanted to come back; they had a really good time on our campus, both the organizers and the reenactors,” Kinkela said. “One said Fredonia couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. It was a very positive experience. The campus was an ideal location.”

Stephanie Fraser, a senior History major and Springville-Griffith Institute High School graduate, is serving an internship with the event that involves planning and other program details. Her career goal is to become a history teacher. “This combines two things that I love: history and education and working with students,” Ms. Fraser said.

“From our perspective, it’s a wonderful way to bring people to campus when the campus is usually quiet,” Kinkela said.