Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 6,7,8:

It's not that I'm bored, I've just hit a plateau at my Apothecary.  I have gotten good enough to speak downstairs to pretty much anyone and can answer most questions. They don't leave me alone yet, but I prefer the company.  Both Monday and Thursday were quiet tame (read: boring) this week, so there wasn't much to write about.  We have very few visitors here during the week since it's the off season, so to avoid the visitor-less blues, I decided to go in today.  The weekends are much more populated, though there are still times that there aren't any visitors.  The downtime gives me a good opportunity to start my research.

When I am downstairs, this is my box of tricks:

This is what I have behind me when I am standing behind the counter.  The bottles hold tinctures, wines, and other liquid medicines.  The bottles are all reproductions and we make the medicines.  They aren't just colored water, it's real medicine in there!  When I talk about different medicines, I grab it and let the visitors look at it up close.  I also will only put out one or two bottles (the medicines I know best) out on the front counter to talk about, so that if visitors are curious, they're only curious about the medicines I know about! The white topped bowls are ointments and powders.  We use them for the same purpose of demonstration.  The terrifying thing you see in front of the bowls is my favorite source for terrifying young children.  It's called a "tooth key"--guess what it does!  Yup, it rips your molars out of your head though the act of leverage only.  With no pain medication.

Thats all for me today.  More on my research later in the week!
Your humble servant,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 5: Thank god for Band-aids

Today was fun for three different reasons.  I had 2 unique guests who challenged me to interpret in a different way than my usually ABC shpeel I give when people walk in the door.  The first was a family of home school-ed hippies: we're talking a 5 year old with dredlocks and a baby wearing a protective charm necklace.  The kids didn't listen to a thing I said, but asked questions the whole time.  I'm still figuring out how to deal with kids, especially ones who are not controlled by their parents.  Sharon finally stepped in and asked the kids to figure out whether the skeleton is male or female.  Basically, she stepped in because I was overwhelmed.  C'est la vie.
Later, I had a school group of 16 high schoolers.  Here, I excelled.  I was able to give a full apothecary presentation all by myself!  I had volunteers and answered questions and everything.  School groups? Potentially conquered.  Older groups at least.  Super proud moment.  Sharon even told me I was doing really well.  I pride myself on tackling the steep learning curve quickly.
The new thing I learned today was....BANDAGES!

There are linen bandages (both coarse and fine) as well as cotton.  Linen was preferred because it was both cheaper and more absorbent.  I learned about different specialty bandages.  The scariest of them all was the bandage used for facial burns.

Terrifying, eh?  It really is.  Greg says I look like I'm about to "murder a lot of people."  Sara says I look like "ham face girl." Awesome.
After I had learned all about bandages, I was put to work making new ones.  You can't just cut a bandage out of a sheet of linen, you have to actually go through a pull out a single thread as it runs straight up the linen.  Once the thread has been pulled out, you can cut the perpendicular threads.  It has to be done this way so that there are no stray threads that could get into a wound, and so the fabric is as strong as possible.  Also, it is the biggest pain in the butt EVER.  After a attempting this for a few hours today, I decided that I never want to do that again.

It was quite a day for me.  I may be exhausted, but at least I'm making progress!
Your humble servant,

Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 4: Making my first Medicine!

On Sunday I got to make my first medicine.  We made turnip cough syrup.  Though not something you would usually find in the Apothecary, it is a good example of a home remedy that colonial Williamsburgians could have used.  It's a really simple recipe.  You can do it tooooooo!

1 turnip
2 tablespoons of sugar

Peel and slice the turnip.

Sprinkle the slices with 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Flip and sprinkle the other tablespoon on the slice.  Wait until the liquid seeps out. The syrup that is left in the bottom of the bowl will sooth your throat and calm your cough!  

In addition to making medicine, Sharon decided that I was ready to take over as the main interpreter.  So instead of sitting and answering the occasional question, but mostly listening to the other interpreter, the other interpreter did most of the sitting and listening.  She only stepped in when I got a question I couldn't answer.  Honestly, I surprised even myself.  I was able to answer a lot more questions than I gave myself credit for.  I talked for 2 hours straight as we kept getting more and more visitors.  Finally Sharon sent me upstairs to rest, which is when I really I was totally exhausted.  

The day ended with a typical quiz by Sharon, except with a different audience.  My friends Sara and Ryan came to visit me and fully enjoyed watching Sharon grill me.  Luckily I passed.  I was at this time photographed in my nature habitat.  This is me in my Apothecary sweet Apothecary: 

While I left the shop at 4:30 I wasn't out of my colonial gear until past 5.  I needed to run to the grocery store, so I bit the bullet and just went for it.  In the trip we have dubbed "Felicity goes to Harris Teeter" I wandered around the store, on my cell phone, picking up all my weekly necessaries.  Eggs, milk, frozen stir fry, etc.  Besides the obvious stares (Harris Teeter is in the tourist area) and the whispers, most of the other patrons were fine.  One Harris Teeter employee came up to me while I was holding my cell phone, car keys, and Diet Dr. Pepper and whispered "Are you Amish?" .....No. 

You never know what is going to happen when you take the colonial out of colonial Williamsburg!
Your humble servant,

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 3: My job is the s**t

Another full time Thursday in the Apothecary.  Since I haven't been feeling well, I wore my loosest outfit to work.  It's simple wrap, no lace, no hooks, nothing scary, just a straight pin and my apron.  Sadly, I am not great with straight pins and I have two cuts on my hands from talking like an Italian too close to my threatening pin.  It's my least favorite outfit because it's the least flattering, but it is the loosest.  With the warp, I don't have to pull my stays so tight, which is nice for my poor body.  Looking foxy:

Looking good was the least of my problems at work.  My boss realized that I learn best through quizzing as I said yesterday.  She took it a step further by quizzing me on things that I hadn't learned yet.  It was much easier to tackle how to express things to the public when I was trying to express it to her.  Instead of reading something in a book and trying to make it make sense to others, I am trying to formulate a thought in real time.  While it's interesting to read the books and discuss my thoughts with her, it's even better knowing that I am making real progress learning the shop. Not only did I nail the things I said I knew in my last post, but I learned a bunch more stuff that is actually useful and built on it so I am one step closer to making  full presentation.  I'm even comfortable enough to really start answering peoples questions by myself.  I still have another interpreter with me on the floor, but they let me talk.  

Now, as I said last post I'm terrified of the walk up and down Duke of Gloucester (DoG) Street.  Despite the few members of the adoring public touring the street during this time of the year, I wasn't quite ready for the looks and pictures that would be aimed my way.  The only thing that could chase me from my warm, safe apothecary was a disaster: an overflowed toilet.  Even in a controlled corporate location like CW, they can't manage everything.  The toilet in the 21st century half of the shop, the upstairs part, overflowed around lunch time.  Sadly, the building was made in the 1950s and the floor isn't so good.  The gross toilet water flowed through the floor and came out in the ceiling in the exhibition space.  What a nightmare.  My boss dialed in a 911 to maintenance.  She and I spent our lunch on the ground, on our hands and knees sopping up water from the our colonial garb.  And that is how I finally felt ready to handle anything DoG Street could throw at me, not to mention anything was better than hanging around that place for my break. maiden voyage on DoG Street is conquered.  

Let me tell you, after a day like that, this is how I felt:

Your Humble Servant,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 2: I begin to talk

On Monday, I had class in the morning so I had to hurry to squeeze myself into my outfit before lunch.  I walked up to my building and entered through the side door, as employees are supposed to do, and proceeded upstairs.  Since I haven't been able to invest in a basket yet, I'm still caring my lunch in my school bag.  It's fine right now, since I just throw my cloak over it (that thing is huge.  It covers all sins) but if I want to walk down Duke of Gloucester Street, I can't carry anything that isn't authentically colonial.  I still haven't had the courage to step outside my shop in costume, I'm scared someone will ask me something or talk to me.

I spend the time without visitors studying colonial medical history.  I have so far read the book written by my two supervisors, part of the precursor to their book written in the 1970s and a synopsis of colonial medical terms between two medical dictionaries.  The hardest part of that is taking the words from the page and making them into things that would make sense coming out of my mouth.  It's all well and fine to read colonial medical dictionaries, but I don't want to sound like a text book and I am physically unable to memorize the whole darn textbook like an autobot.   My supervisor and I finally clicked in a learning pattern and instead of her just telling me everything, she started quizzing me.  Super challenging, but now I won't forget!

I am now fully capable of speaking.  Well, not fully.  I can tell people about toothbrushes, that gross stuff they used for toothpaste, ye olde tums and where the stuff is in the shop.  I can answer the most common questions asked by our adoring public, which are: how to cure a cold? how to cure a headache? and what is the most common medicine used back then?  I'm still too nervous to talk to people spontaneously though.  I continue to rely on whomever is interpreting next to me, whether it be my boss, one of the floating interpreters or the kind volunteer who has been working there for almost 15 years.  Take that learning curve. Next mission: be able to point at a drawer/jar/box and tell you what it is and how to use it.

Here is Monday's outfit! (I know the photo quality is awful, I took it myself...)

Your humble servant,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 1: Dr. Feelgood

Yesterday was my very first day in the Apothecary in Colonial Williamsburg.  Behind the scenes we take turns downstairs in the shop and upstairs with our secret cove of computers, microwave and refrigerator.  We even have a Brita filter.  There is a steep learning curve on my first day.  When you're behind the counter and in costume, visitors seem to think you know what you're talking about.  I spent my visitor-free time reading the "cheat-sheets" in the drawers so I have some clue about what each dried brown thing is.  I can now tell you all about colonial toothbrushes, the difference between caster oil and Castorium (one is from a bean, the other is the dried musk gland of a Russian beaver. seriously.), and a smattering of colonial medical theory.  I still have so much to learn, I have to know off the top of my head what works for different diseases, and where it is in my shop.  Visitors have lots of questions, and I can't just sit their quietly and smile like I did on my first day.

I'll have to get used to having strangers taking my picture all the time too.  Like any 15 year old girl taking pictures of cute boys on the beach, the visitors pretend to take pictures of something behind me.  Smooth.  I decided to take some pictures of my own.  After using and abusing my two roommates/ladies-in-waiting to get me into the darn stays, I used them again to showcase my descent from colonial shopkeep to 21st century me (with insane bonnet hair).  Check it out:
Outerwear: thick wool cloak and heavy cotton overcoat.

What you'll see me wearing in the shop.

Under pettycoat, pocket and stays

Shift and stays form the "base coat" of my attire.
Stays have to be tight to make the clothes fit correctly.
Authentic leather shoes with bling buckles. 

What can I say, colonial comes naturally.  

Your humble servant,

Going to colonial Williamsburg in my Delorean

To clarify- the Delorean is the time machine from Back to the Future. And I feel like I go back to the future every time I leave Colonial Williamsburg, hence the name. I am going to blog my semester of interning in Colonial Williamsburg in the Apothecary. Things people say, pictures random people take of me (usually without my knowledge), the pure joy that comes with wearing stays for 7 hours at a time, and the fun facts I learn. Stay tuned for the run down of my first day (with pictures!)

Your humble servant,