The Inside Story

When my daughter Bea was studying at the Yiddish Book Center in Massachusetts, I went to  visit her.  We zipped down the turnpike to Old Sturbridge Village.

The village is a living museum including 59 restored buildings, a working farm and water-powered mills.  There were craftsmen…



 …and re-enactors.

We were invited to look through a window in time…

We saw village life as it was lived between the 1790s and the 1830s.

I enjoyed the opportunity to see the old buildings from the inside out.

 Everywhere we went there were whispers, hinting at the inside story.

Upon reflection, one thing was clear…

Just as we do today,  those people worked hard…

…fell in love…or not…

…cherished their children…

…and valued their friends.

Some things never change.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside.


  1. This is lovely. We have a place here too where different re-enactments are carried on in proper time costumes and proper old-time buildings but they are not a real village but a sometime one and no farm anywhere that I know of.

    Lovely pictures and interesting facts. Who pays for the upkeep and is it a real time operating village or just sometimes?

    1. Hi Tess,
      What is the name of the history museum near you? I love history, and re-creations of it. Old Sturbridge Village, the historic recreation, is located in a real village called Sturbridge. The place is a working farm, has lots employees, and sell produce and crafts such as pottery and decorative tinwork. I think they are open all year round.
      Thanks for caring!

  2. I like Bea’s pretty skirt. I’ve heard of Old Sturbridge Village, but didn’t realize what it consists of. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Oooooo! Soooo excited you went! Right up your alley! That was one of our favorite places in MA. We liked actually being able to try grinding grain, milking cows, quilting and seeing the old letterpresses. What was your favorite spot??

    1. Hi Sue,

      This was just what we love. We enjoyed it all–don’t know if I could pick a favorite. We loved just soaking up the atmosphere. The gentleman in photo #4 was so knowledgeable, and an excellent storyteller. He worked in the print shop, and there was no one else there, so he told lots of good stories and shared fun facts, took out old newspapers from those old days to illustrate his points. It was really fun, and we learned so much stuff that you can’t generally just pick up in a book or on one of the explanatory signs.
      Thanks for the visit. See you soon!

    1. I am sure there were advantages to living a slower lifestyle, but they would have had other stresses that we don’t have to worry about so much. Every time a woman was with child her family would wonder if she and the baby would survive the birthing, and oftentimes they wouldn’t. Or if your child caught a cold, you’d hope it wouldn’t turn into pneumonia. But Bea and I loved stepping out of our very fast pace of life and into the backwaters of 1830 for a while.
      Thanks so much for the visit, and your thoughtful comments. I always love to hear from you.

  4. Your portrait photographs are expertly done Naomi – I’d die to have those skills.

    Though Sturbridge must be a lovely experience I can’t help feeling that realism takes second place to idealistic?

    1. Hi Roy,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Sturbridge Village doesn’t gloss over the hardships they faced in the old days, such as death in childbed, epidemics, bad harvests, slavery, and hard work to accomplish the simplest things–such as keeping a house warm in cold New England winters. But even so, it does paint a pretty picture of another time and place. So good to hear from you!
      P.S. Saw your post yesterday, and it was lovely.

  5. This is a great place to visit, although it has been too long since I have been. It’s not too far away from where I live, but it’s true that once you step foot inside the village you feel like you have stepped into a completely different world.

    1. I bet your daughter would get a big kick out of it. Mine did, and she is nineteen years old. She wears the pioneer sunbonnet I got her at the Sturbridge gift shop around her college campus!
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for taking the time to comment. It is nice to hear from you–hope you are well.

  6. What beautiful images and your thoughts linking them. Makes me feel closer to people of long ago and even right now. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for the visit, Anne, and for your thoughtful comment–just exactly what a storyteller loves to hear!
      Hope you are well, my dear, and looking forward so much to seeing you at the Forest Storytelling Festival!

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for the visit. I am SO impressed with the YBC. As a part of The STeiner Program, over the course of seven weeks Bea studied Yiddish language, history, and culture. They also went on a field trip to NYC to Ellis Island, to the Tenement Museum, to interact with native Yiddish speakers. She came home speaking Yiddish (language class was three hours every morning, singing songs in Yiddish, dancing the dances, telling the stories, and with a great appreciation for the culture. I can’t praise the center enough for working so hard to keep this culture alive and vibrant. They worked the participants hard, but it was an exciting and joyful experience.

  7. Your posts don’t come along so frequently, Naomi, but when they do they’re always a delight. I can feel the warmth of your personality through the page. Wonderful interpretation. 🙂

  8. I’d love to get out there and see how other living history museums operate. The time period is earlier than Old World Wisconsin…beautiful tin work, hats, etc. Great shot of the woman with hands on hips, profile reflected in the mirror!

    1. Dear Scilla,
      I was thinking of you while we were there. Actually, every time I walk into a history museum, especially one that re-enacts or re-creates a time and place, I think of you. My kids and I all think you have one of the best jobs in the world.
      P.S. You have such a great eye for detail–it took several tries to get that reflection lined up just right.

  9. Lovely! Lovely! Enjoyed this so much as I have not been – or even thought about Sturbridge in many, many years – more than a half-century probably (Yikes! LOL!) – I had a good time there. I remember it as being almost overwhelming in size with many buildings and many docents who were quite gracious. It was magical for a child of the city and I think I wrote one of those “what I did on my summer vacation” essays on it. Thanks, Naomi, for bring it back. Glad you and Bea got to see Old Sturbridge Village and had a good day there.

    1. Dear Jamie,
      I can imagine you as a little city girl visiting Sturbridge Village! I would LOVE to read your summer vacation essay about it.
      Thanks so much for the visit and the kind word. It is always so good to hear from you.

  10. Hi Sarah,
    This was a special treat for me and for Bea, who has a passion for history, and there is so much of it on the East Coast. Of course, that must sound funny to someone living in Sussex, where our oldest buildings in the US are just blips compared to the deep and far reaching history that surrounds you every day!
    Thanks so much for the visit, and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  11. Some things never change… and others do… looking through that window of time, I couldn’t help but thing of many villages that were wiped off the map. So it was a sweet and sour message. But I am grateful to those who have embraced some of the treasures of that time. My best weishes to Bea.

  12. I’ve visited the Old Sturbridge Village in the 70’s. My hubby and I love visiting museums and places of interest like this one. There is always so much to learn. They always make it interesting. Museums house treasures that many people I know think is wasteful. How sad for them that they cannot see the beauty in everything that is out there including the past and art.
    Great post … loved it. Thanks for the memories.

    1. Dear Izzy,

      I was at Sturbridge about ten years ago, and budget cuts have made a difference in the programming. It was still a great experience, but noticeably diminished in what they had to offer compared to previous times with better funding.

      Your comment about people who regard museums as wasteful is very sad, but true. Thank goodness there are enough people who still find them fascinating and delight in the educational aspects of them. My kids grew up visiting history, art, and culture from museum trips, and I think it made a difference in who they were and how they turned out.

      I recently visited the Detroit Institute of Art in Detroit. They are in financial trouble, and are considering selling precious and irreplaceable works of art. It is so short-sighted, as the museum is one of the few draws–aside from the stadium and the casino in Greektown–that still brings people into the city from the suburbs. But I read comments on an article about it, and there were many people who scorned the art museum, and felt it was elitist, useless, not worth its upkeep. It makes me sad to think about it, and I still don’t know what they are going to do about it.

      Thanks for a very interesting and thoughtful comment.

      1. When my husband and I started dating the museum of natural history in manhattan and the library (I’m drawing a blank on the name) were our favorites places to go. They were budget friendly (no money – 16 & 17 years old) and both of us love books. The smell of books is intoxication. He studies and researches mayan and aztec cultures and various things of that type. He is never at a loss for research material. We kid about not looking into each others eyes because we were engrossed in a book. Anyway, we kept that frugal habit and that’s why we enjoy museums so much. Plus we both enjoy learning about everything. I see that school aren’t encouraging the arts or music which may be why the museums seem to be elitist. My eyes can’t absorb enough art and my brain still has lots of space for learning about cultures.
        I hope they come to a good decision about saving the DI of A. It would be a shame to see it close.
        This was a very thought provoking post.
        Have a GREAT weekend …

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