Fenton Hosts Free Museum Day, Civil War Encampment

Weekend visitors to the Fenton History Center had no shortage of options for satisfying their historical curiosities.

On Saturday, the museum participated in a number of programs, including participation in Smithsonian Magazine’s Free Museum Day 2013 and the Blue and Gray 2013 Civil War re-enactment encampment.

According to Paula Bechmann, Fenton’s office manager, the museum has participated in Smithsonian’s free museum before. And, she said, while participation doesn’t necessarily increase the museum’s traffic flow, it does come with other perks.

“It’s been very quiet,” Bechmann said when asked about the turnout. “A lot of people don’t read the Smithsonian, I guess. But it doesn’t cost us anything to participate in it, so it gets us free advertising in an international magazine.”

The current exhibit on display at the museum is “Jamestown’s Top Ten,” featuring 10 artifacts in the Fenton collection that best represent Jamestown’s past. The exhibit, which opened May 19, will reach its conclusion today.

Outside in Fenton Park, an encampment of Civil War re-enactors portraying the 9th Virginia Volunteer Cavalry Regiment and the 155th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment provided a realistic demonstration of what life as a soldier in the Civil War looked like. Running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the encampment included a flag-raising commencement ceremony, drill and musket firing demonstrations and camp life discussions.

According to David Bertuca, president of the 155th New York Volunteer Infantry Re-enactment Regiment, the purpose of the re-enactment is two-fold.

“We’ve been doing this encampment (at the Fenton) for about six years,” Bertuca said. “We do things like this a lot. They’re called ‘living histories,’ where we present a little bit of what life in the (Civil War) period was like. So, people get to see what the soldiers had with them, like the types of food, clothing and materials and things like that. And (camping at) historical sites is nice because we can help them out by getting people in to see the place. And (Fenton Park) a good place to camp, we like it here.”

Joni Blackman, Fenton director, said the encampment is a great way to learn about local history, as well.

“The local boot camp for Jamestown, Camp Brown, was located very near Fletcher Elementary School,” she said in a previous interview. “Soldiers were housed there for a month or so before they went off to war in 1862. I encourage anyone who has an interest in the Civil War or history to stop down and check out the encampment.”

The Blue and Gray 2013 program will also be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today with a 10 a.m. flag-raising ceremony, camp life discussions at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and drill and musket firing demonstrations at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. To learn more about the 155th New York Volunteer Infantry Re-enactment Regiment, which is centered around northern Erie County and the Buffalo area, call 655-0565 or visit its website at www.155thny.org.

For more information on the Fenton History Center and its upcoming events, visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org.