MASSACHUSETTS: THE PLIMOTH MUSEUM
Plimoth Plantation, 137 Warren Avenue .
Plymouth . Massachusetts, is one of my favorite historical sites. As a direct descendant of John Alden, going to Plimoth Plantation is suggestive of going home, and I've been to this marvelous place more times than I can count. The sense of history here resonates from every part of the Plantation.
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There's great and reverent balance here. It's not just about the English Colonists (often called Pilgrims), the first Massachusetts settlement or The First Thanksgiving. The curators have taken great care to place emphasis on the important role the Wampanoag Native People played in the opening scene of American history. In addition, they explain the evolution of Thanksgiving from its true origins, food and purpose to the turkey-and-football event we know it to be today. And to their great credit, they don't perpetuate the myths that are common to the holiday.
The site comprises six major attractions: The 1627 Pilgrim Village; Hobbamock's Homesite; The Mayflower II; Nye Barn; Thanksgiving: Memory, Myth & Meaning, a special exhibit; and the Crafts Center. In addition, there are three wonderful places to stop for unique dining experiences: 17th Century Dining; Thanksgiving Dining; and Quick Service Dining.
The 1627 Pilgrim Village has been recreated in minute detail and the staff, in period dress, go about their daily activities as if the Plantation was still the epicenter of the New World. The introduction from the Plantation's Website explains: "Welcome to the town! How do you fare? It doth please me to see you in such good humour on this day. You will find many of my neighbors cooking their noon-time meats, tending their gardens, chopping wood, farming or working at some other task. But we would be happy to rest from our labours for a moment to speak with you, are you just passing through, or mayhaps you are desiring to settle in this wilderness?"
The thatch roofed buildings offer a plethora of period artifacts that give ample insight into how the English Colonists lived back in 1627, interacted with one another and the Wampanoag and survived against some daunting odds. The staff members are extremely well versed in the history and tone of the time they represent and can expound at length on virtually any relevant topic.
Hobbamock's Homesite gives visitors a very realistic view of how the Wampanoag People, who have lived in Southeastern New England for thousands of years, went about their daily lives. A traditional wetu (house) provides the same detail found in the English Colonist houses and realistically displays how different the Native lifestyle was from the English Colonist's. You'll learn here, as well, how the Wampanoag viewed and responded to the arrival of the Europeans from their perspective.
Hobbamock's Homesite, Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts. Copyright © Plimoth Plantation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
When one compares the luxury and spaciousness of today's ocean-going cruise ships to the Mayflower II, an exact replica of the original Mayflower, one wonders how the English Colonists made the voyage, safe, sound and sane. From the introduction at the Plantation's Website: "Good morrow! Is this your first time on a ship? For myself, I am anxious to gather up my belongings and be rid of this wretched vessel. It has been far too many months that I have borne meals of biscuit and peas pottage, the insults of these sailors and my family's small, dark, damp cabin down below, 'tween decks. Can you think of living in such a manner?"
The size of the ship and the quarters of those who sailed aboard her are highly suggestive of a claustrophobic encounter of the worst kind. Imagine yourself 1 of 102 passengers and 18 crew on a ship 106 feet long with a beam 25 feet wide for a day, much less months. The word "determination" takes on a whole new meaning in the context of reaching the New World. Not much space for shuffleboard and deckchairs, much less privacy of any kind.
Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts. Copyright © Plimoth Plantation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Nye Barn conserves a great deal more than just history. The Plantation's staff members are the caretakers of breeds of animals common during the 1600s, but extremely rare now. Breeding stocks for these animals are very low, but the Plantation is doing an exemplary job of helping the animals thrive. You can learn a great deal about farm animals and beasts of burden here, as well as in the village where they wander about or are yoked into service to help complete the daily chores.
The Thanksgiving Exhibit traces the holiday back from present
day to the 1621 harvest and The First Thanksgiving. It tells a compelling
story, debunks myth and provides, "...an evolving sense of what it is
to be an American."
The Crafts Center offers basket weaving 101, as well as pottery, joiner (furniture maker) and tailoring 101 as it was done by the English Colonists. Skilled craftspeople are happy to answer your questions about how they ply their trades, as well as how what they make was crafted at a time when there was no electricity for a pottery wheel, sewing machine, etc.
The Plimoth Plantation also has an exciting and comprehensive educational component well worth exploration.
For individuals and families interested in the Wampanoag Native Peoples' culture and the cradle of the Euro America in this country, Plimoth Plantation is an absolute must see.
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Exhibits and Attractions
1627 English Colonist Village
From the Plimoth Plantation Website: This is one of the ways you may be greeted in the 1627 English Colonist Village, a re-creation of the small farming town built by English colonists in the midst of the Wampanoag homeland. Find yourself immersed in the year 1627, just seven years after colonists first arrived on the Mayflower. In the village you will be surrounded by the modest timber-framed houses, fragrant raised-bed gardens, well-tended livestock and fascinating townspeople of the first permanent English settlement in New England.
From the Plimoth Plantation Website: The people you will meet at Hobbamock's Homesite talk of the past, but their story is also a very current one, told from a modern perspective. Step into a traditional wetu (house) and enter a world that may be new and unfamiliar to you. Surrounded by soft furs, flickering firelight, and artfully woven bulrush mats, learn about traditional Wampanoag family life as well as the arrival of the English from a Native point of view. Walk around outside and enjoy the scent of sobaheg (stew) as it simmers over an aromatic birch wood fire. Discover traditional Native plant remedies or help scrape out a mishoon (boat) using centuries-old techniques. Gaze upon the tranquil waters of the Eel River and take this time to glimpse, if only for a moment, the world of the Wampanoag in the 1600s.
From the Plimoth Plantation Website: Visiting Mayflower II is an extraordinary experience. The details of the ship, from the solid oak timbers and tarred hemp rigging, to the wood and horn lanterns and hand-colored maps, have all been carefully recreated to give you a sense of what the original 17th-century vessel was like. Come aboard and learn about the 1620 voyage, the perils of maritime travel, and the tools of 17th-century navigation. Explore the cramped quarters of the ship's passengers. Peer down into the lower level "hold," where the food, clothing, furniture, tools and other items necessary to start a colony were stored. Admire the "spacious" Master's cabin, and compare it to the wet and windy accommodations of the common sailors. You will also hear the tale of a modern Englishman's dream to build and sail Mayflower II as a symbol of American and British unity after WWII.
The Mayflower II, Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts. Copyright © Plimoth Plantation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
From the Plimoth Plantation Website: At the Crafts Center, you have the unique opportunity to meet and talk with Plimoth Plantation's skilled potters, tailors, basket maker and joiner (furniture maker). From colorful earthenware dishes for serving corn porridge to finely carved chests for storing household linens, from sturdy willow baskets for gathering herbs to the numerous pleats sewn into a heavy wool petticoat , you will see our artisans reproducing many of the beautiful, fascinating and functional objects being used in the 1627 English Colonist Village and on board Mayflower II. Compare the earthenware pieces the potters make with centuries-old archaeological finds on display. Ask the joiner about the splitting and carving tools, which he uses to fashion oak into chairs and chests. Find out how the tailors know what techniques were used to create the clothes the colonists wore. Watch as the basket maker uses English willow to reproduce 17th-century baskets for gathering, hauling and storing.
From the Plimoth Plantation Website: Visiting the Nye Barn is a "rare" experience, rare breeds, that is. Since 1980, Plimoth Plantation has helped conserve rare and heritage breed livestock from around the world. The animals you will see at the Nye Barn, as well as those in the 1627 English Colonist Village, are all older breeds that were common in past centuries, but have critically low breeding populations today.
This intriguing welcome is from the video that you will see as you enter Plimoth Plantation's newest exhibit: Thanksgiving: Memory, Myth & Meaning. If you thought Thanksgiving was all about turkey and football, are you in for a surprise! This acclaimed exhibit traces the history of the holiday, in fact, in myth, and in the popular imagination. The story begins with present-day customs and moves back through time to the 1621 harvest celebration at Plymouth (later called "The First Thanksgiving"). As you travel though the exhibit, you will find that the American Thanksgiving holiday includes not only the stories of the Native Wampanoag People and the English colonists of Plymouth, but also the Civil War, one very persistent 19th-century woman, innovations in food, immigrants from all over the world and an evolving sense of what it is to be an American.
Museum Online Gift Shop
Address: 137 Warren Avenue . Plymouth . Massachusetts 02360
Hours: Henry Hornblower II Visitor Center is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.
Exhibit in the Visitor Center: Thanksgiving: Memory, Myth & Meaning is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Crafts Center is open from 9:15 am to 5:00 pm
1627 Pilgrim Village is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Hobbamock's (Wampanoag) Homesite is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Nye Barn is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Practical Questions about Your Visit to Plimoth Plantation
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