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Reenacting the Past

Sunday, March 18, 2012 - 9:00am to 10:30am


James Watrous Gallery at Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St., 3rd Flr. 53703 Madison , WI

Join us for a free presentation about historical reenactment with Michael Douglass, director, Villa Louis Historic Site (Prairie du Chien) and Isaac Walters (Blair, WI), a high school history teacher and experienced reenactor focused on the lives of the early French in Wisconsin. Douglass and Walters will talk about what inspires people to get involved in reenacting history, the diversity of reenactors’ goals and approaches, and the challenge of pursuing authenticity. They will also share their personal experiences of Rendezvous gatherings in the Midwest, which focus on the North American Fur Trade Era (ca. 1790-1860).

Through his work at Villa Louis, Michael Douglass is actively engaged in interpreting the early 19th-century Great Lakes Fur Trade. One of the largest fur trade reenactments in the Midwest, the Prairie Villa Rendezvous, is held nearby. Douglass, who studied History and Museum Studies at SUNY-Cooperstown, is also an active participant in War of 1812 and 1820s Fur Trade reenactment. Isaac Walters teaches high school history in Blair, Wisconsin, and has served as an interpretive ranger at Grand Portage National Monument (MN), where the Rendezvous Days reenactment is a highlight of the summer. Walters has extensive experience as a reenactor, lecturer, and consultant, and makes many of the items he uses as a reenactor himself. Walters received his MA in History from UW-Eau Claire.

This gallery talk is held in conjunction with the Watrous Gallery exhibition “Encountering Cultures: Tom Jones,” (March 9-April 29, 2012) a series of photographs taken at midwestern Rendezvous, gatherings of historical reenactors focused on the North American Fur Trade Era. Tom Jones, whose Ho Chunk identity is an integral part of his work as an artist, is fascinated by the way reenactors rely on historic photographs as a model for “authentic” Native American life. Virtually all historic images of Native Americans were taken by outsiders and frame their subjects as noble savages, poignant exemplars of a dying people, or romantic villains of the Wild West. Inevitably, the Rendezvous participants’ sincere interest in history is also colored by the nostalgic, idealized images found in early photographs.

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Wisconsin Academy Administrative Offices and Steenbock Gallery
1922 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53726
Phone: 608.733.6633


James Watrous Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters
3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts
201 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.733.6633 x25