Overnight guests at living history museums

In July’s issue of Baltimore Magazine was an article I found quite interesting: Down on the Farm. The article’s author spent a weekend at a bed and breakfast that also offers a farm-like experience. Visitors can choose to just relax on the large front porch and enjoy the scenic farm views, or they can get their hands dirty milking cows and learning farm techniques.

The author visited Juniper Moon Farm, which also offers weekend “Camp JMF” workshops like cheese-making, shepherding, yarn-dying, and culinary camp.

I immediately wondered if any living history museums have tried programs like this? I know of sites that offer a day-long workshop on some of these trades, and also some week-long day camps for kids. But is anyone inviting adults to the museum for a weekend and offering an immersive experience?

Living history museums have all of the expertise needed to run these types of programs, and if they don’t have a place for folks to sleep on-site, a local hotel is likely to provide a discount. (However, I think more people would like the experience of sleeping over in a historic structure.)

The C&O Canal in southern Maryland offers a “Canal Quarters” program, where people can stay in a canal lockhouse for a night for free. The amenities (electricity, running water, air conditioning) differ from house to house, but this way, people can select the experience that is “right” for them. The program has been very popular, with three lockhouses being piloted last year, and another two opening this year. No programming is offered with the stay, so visitors are on their own during the day, but the model proves there is something popular about the idea of spending the night “back in time.”

Today, I found an article on NPR called “Living Above The Past: Museum Opens Up To Tenants” about Strawbery Banke‘s new rental program. The museum has renovated the second floor spaces in some of their exhibition homes and rented them out to locals. Although the modern conveniences of 21st century life intrude on the authenticity of the museum experience more than I would like, I have to admit it is a clever way to generate income for the museum.

So what do you think? Are these types of programs viable options in at your living history sites?

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