Live-In History Experience at Washburn-Norlands Living History Center | Events

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Live-In History Experience at Washburn-Norlands Living History Center
Live-In History Experience at Washburn-Norlands Living History Center

Immerse yourself in 1870.  Spend 24 hours on the farm.   Join us for an exciting, hands-on learning experience

The next 24-hour live-in history experience at the Norlands is on September 26 & 27, 2014  is open to the public and just waiting for you to call and reserve a spot.  Sign up by September 12th.  Space is limited to a maximum of 15 participants.  For more information or to register, call 207-897-4366 or e-mail

The Norlands Living History Center in Livermore, Maine, is a multi-faceted museum and working farm offering in-depth experiences in 19th century rural Maine life.  It is also the ancestral home of Livermore’s Washburn family, one of America’s great political and industrial families of the 19th century.  The 445-acre estate includes the 1867 Washburn family mansion and attached farmer’s cottage, a granite library, an 1828 Universalist meetinghouse, an 1853 one-room schoolhouse, and an expanse of picturesque farmland.  

This experiential 19th-century living history program has been around since the 1970s. According to a recent national Museum Assessment Report funded by the American Alliance of Museums, living history is the “showpiece” of the Norlands’ work.  In 2007 Swedish museologist Sten Rentzhog recognized the Norlands in his work “Open Air Museums: The History and Future of a Visionary Idea” and wrote “A course at Norlands, then, is not a sojourn in history, but an even stronger experience of life in another time, moving in the realms of archival studies, role-play, kitchen duties, farm work and other practical exercises….at the same time the participants have great fun, with many laughs, and one acquires an imaginative attitude to the possibilities.” 

The Live-In History Experience at Norlands is an overnight introduction to the food, activities, and living conditions of the past and a unique and fun way of learning about rural Maine farm life in the years following the Civil War.  It offers guests the chance to step back in time and enjoy an oasis from modern times. The program is an engaging intergenerational or team-building experience, whether you attend as an individual or with your family, friends, or co-workers. Through real work on a historical farm, participants establish a personal connection with the past, develop a greater appreciation for the present, and view themselves from a different perspective. Stepping back in time and working on a farm allows one to experience how different it is to use human and animal muscle power rather than electronic machines and computers to do work.  You are guaranteed to leave with memories to last a lifetime.

Participant Thomas Davidson of Fairfield, Maine, commented, “Our experiences with our character role playing, cooking our meals on a wood  cook stove, completing various chores around the farm, attending a lesson at the old school house, and the night-time tour of the mansion was exhilarating for us all. During the final check-in to end our two-day program we all sat around and shared our experiences. It was obvious to me at this time how this program emotionally affected my co-workers and I by hearing the positive comments and praise about different aspects of the program.  It definitely brought us closer as a team.”

During the 24-hour live-in, participants learn what it’s like to live without modern technology such as smartphones. With guidance from Norlands’ staff, guests assume the character of someone who actually lived near the Norlands in the 19th century and become a part of a farm family; learn appropriate behavior and customs, speech and colloquialisms of the time; use 19th century farm implements and discover the challenges of cooking on a wood stove; learn the realities of 19th century farm life by participating in indoor and outdoor chores such as feeding the chickens, gathering eggs, pumping water from the well, harvesting vegetables, mucking stalls, and more; play period games and listen to stories in the evening; go back to the basics of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic in the District #7 one-room schoolhouse; tour the 1867 Washburn family mansion and hear about this remarkable Livermore family; and perhaps enjoy a humorous neighborly visit from “Mercy Lovejoy”, a 19th-century pauper who lived on the town farm located around the corner from the Norlands.  Plenty of time is available to relax on the piazza and soak in the tranquility and beauty of Norlands.

When reflecting on her experience last year living at Norlands for 24-hours, Annika Carey, a fifth grade student, commented:

“I had fun cooking because it smelled sooo good and the kitchen was so 1870s.

The animals are really cute too.

And I REALLY liked listening to Mrs. Howard and Mercy's stories.

I thought the water pump was really fun because they use it all the time on Little House on the Prairie!”

Live-In participants stay overnight in an authentic reproduction of an 1870’s Farmer’s Cottage.  Program fees include 3 authentic home-cooked farm meals, snacks, one night’s lodging, and instructional materials.

Fees are $125 per adult and $95.00 for ages 12 and under.  Registration and fees are due by September 12, 2014.  Space is limited, so sign up today!

For safety reasons, the physical activities, and the need to participate, this program is open to adults and children age 9 and older.  (4th grade+).   Children must be accompanied by an adult.   Live-Ins last a full 24 hours, from 2:30 pm one day to 2:30 pm the following day.  For more information please call 207-897-4366, email, or visit the website,


WE MAKE HISTORY FUN!  The Washburn-Norlands Living History Center is a multifaceted museum offering in-depth experiences in 19th century rural life.  Our mission is to preserve the heritage and traditions of rural life in Maine's past, to celebrate the achievements of Livermore's Washburn family, and to use living history methods to make values, activities, and issues of the past relevant to present and future generations.


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