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Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

Historical society to take closer look at re-enactment portrayals of violence

March 30, 2002

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— The Kansas State Historical Society will take another look at a policy that bans violent re-enactments at its historical sites.

Terry Marmet, director of historical sites, said Thursday that what the society wants to prevent are "gun-to-head" re-enactments with no educational value.

"We are not trying to get rid of violence," Marmet told a group of about 20 who attended the First Territorial Capitol's annual membership meeting.

He said the society has to take a more active role in reviewing the re-enactment scripts to make sure they're performed in a tasteful and educational manner.

"We knew what we meant that there are exceptions that are possible," Marmet said, adding it was in the society's best interest to clarify the policy. "That was not conveyed to the public. I think there will be some modifications (to the way the policy is written)."

Lawmakers, historians and re-enactors have criticized the policy, which states "battle re-enactments and/or any demonstrations of weapons that involve the firing at opposing forces, the taking of casualties, or any other forms of simulated warfare or other acts of violence are prohibited."

Concern from historians and re-enactors is that the policy encourages sanitizing history.

And the House Ways and Means Committee is pushing to have 10 percent of the society's funding withheld until the policy is reviewed and appropriate changes are made.

The society crafted its first re-enactment policy in 1995 because of concerns over the 30-second re-enactment of the Marais des Cygnes massacre in Linn County. During the 1856 massacre, pro-slavery forces rounded up 11 free-staters, put them in a ditch and shot them.

The original policy was based on one used by the National Park Service. But that policy was revised last December and wording that prohibited depicted violence was added to prevent what the society considered another inappropriate re-enactment of the massacre.

Marmet, who will be involved in rewriting the policy, said violent scenes are not, and will not be, prohibited. He said the society and the groups performing the re-enactments will "talk it through, figure out how to do it, do it effectively, and show the story."

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