• Part of a roofline shows from one building. Trees with fall color leaves on them fill most of the photo. A lamp-post is near center of the photo.

    Harpers Ferry Center

Furnishing a Visitor Use Area

Furnishing a visitor use area can involve many of the same pitfalls as supplying a living history program (click here for living history). You may, however, wish to sacrifice some accuracy in the interest of economy or ease of replacement. Contracting for an exact reproduction of a chair, for example, is more expensive than purchasing a chair that is a stock design of a good craftsperson. When that chair breaks, it will be easier to replace a stock chair also. There are many, many people out there making “reproduction” furniture. Some are excellent craftspeople who accurately reproduce the original object. Others use an antique for inspiration and take it from there. Only you can decide what is appropriate for your site. However, if you are looking for the most accurate stock reproduction, you should ask the craftsperson the following questions:

  • Is the reproduction a copy of a single antique object? What is the provenance of the antique? (where was it made, by whom if known, at what time, what is its current location)
  • Is the reproduction identical in scale (of all parts), materials, and finish? You may be willing to compromise in this area. For example, a different but similar wood might be acceptable if the substitution results in a stronger or much less expensive object. You might be willing to accept a modern, more durable finish for tabletops, for example, if visitors will be lunching on them.
  • Is the reproduction made by hand or machine made? Understand that for different time periods certain machines are perfectly appropriate. Also, if the result looks accurate and the object is a reasonable price, you may not care if it is machine made.

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