Today Courtney Peter, Publications Coordinator for the DAR magazine, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at American Spirit magazine and the November/December cover story, “The Role of Another Lifetime.”

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Behind-the-Scenes of American Spirit’s Historical Interpreters Story

Courtney Peter
Publications Coordinator, DAR magazine
November 18, 2013

Producing American Spirit magazine takes an enormous amount of planning. For example, the magazine’s 2013 editorial calendar was compiled during the summer of 2012. The magazine team feels a fresh wave of anticipation each time a new issue delivers a batch of long-awaited articles to subscribers’ homes. For the just-released November/December 2013 issue, we’re especially excited to share “The Role of Another Lifetime,” our feature about the historical interpreters who illuminate Colonial lives.

There are so many outstanding interpreters working at historic sites and events throughout the country that it would be impossible to cover all of them. We needed to narrow the article’s focus, so we decided to concentrate mainly on historical interpreters who were also DAR members. This approach gave us a chance to show how Daughters act as living links to the Revolution in ways that go beyond lineage.

Once we figured out the angle the story would take, we had to find DAR members to feature. One came to mind right away. Feather Tippetts-Roscia of Gabilan Chapter, Gilroy, Calif., had been on our list of Today’s Daughters nominees since 2011, when she attracted attention by wearing beautifully crafted, historically accurate gowns while attending Continental Congress. The Magazine Office hears about so many amazing DAR members that it often takes a year or more for a nominee’s turn for an American Spirit profile to arrive. Fortunately, we were able to cover Mrs. Tippetts-Roscia in the historical interpreters story, and she turned out to be a perfect fit. We rounded out the pool of possibilities by asking the President General and other staff members at DAR Headquarters for recommendations, and taking a little help from Google. Writer Nancy Mann Jackson—a longtime American Spirit freelance contributor—incorporated several of her own contacts as well.

Beautiful visuals are an American Spirit signature, and we knew this story wouldn’t be complete without them. To get the exact photographs we wanted, Managing Editor Jamie Roberts and Art Director Kerri Davis, who work at Hammock, Inc., our partner in producing American Spirit and Daughters newsletter, scheduled a photo shoot at the American Village in Montevallo, Ala., a center for American history and civics education.  

Kerri envisioned photos focused on the costumed interpreter, with as simple a background as possible. “The people—the characters—of history are what lure us into caring about the past, and we wanted their faces and attitudes and costumes and interactions with others to be prominent, and the backdrop to be devoid of busy-ness or conflicting imagery,” Kerri said. The cover photo of Nancy Moore, who looks toward the camera in character as Mercy Otis Warren, translates that concept into an arresting photo. 

Ms. Moore, a member of Cahawba Chapter, Birmingham, Ala., who works at the American Village as an interpreter and historic clothing manager, was one of several interpreters to take part in the shoot. The interpreters didn’t just slip into character when the camera turned their way. The entire time Kerri was at the American Village, they spoke to her in character using time-period-appropriate language. Only during lunch, while away from visitors, did time periods collide, as William Stewart, dressed as Patrick Henry, was seen reading his iPhone while eating directly from the pizza box.

That momentary juxtaposition of past and present embodies the challenge of a historical interpreter’s job: to connect us to a world that can seem far removed from the present day in a way that’s not only historically accurate, but also relatable. With “The Role of Another Lifetime,” we wanted to cast a spotlight on the lives of historical interpreters, just as they do for the historical figures they portray. We hope you like the story, and the behind-the-scenes look at the article’s journey to the printed page.

Finally, we have an exciting piece of news to share: Last week we found out that the magazine won two Marcom awards, administered by the Association of Marketing & Communications Professionals! American Spirit’s November/December 2012 issue won a Gold award for Magazine Cover Design and a Platinum award in the Association Magazine category.

 

 

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