Reflections on Camp

When my spring break camps here at the Kentucky Historical Society were cancelled due to COVID-19, can you imagine what I did? I let the zen of organization call to me. I freed my inner Marie Kondo. I clean when I am stressed out, so I embarked on an epic journey of camp supply inventory. I’m talking cleaning cabinets, replenishing stock, buying shelves and sorting through dozens of plastic bins one item at a time. While I have not yet completed my epic inventory yet (#HealthyAtHome, y’all!), I wanted to share some discoveries I’ve made so far: Our boxes of tangled, cut up balls of yarn did not go to waste. They were used for an activity that one of our teen volunteers shared with campers.

Her initiative in creating the activity and the attention she gave to the campers as she taught them ignited a multiple week obsession over making with yarn. Our fabric bins do not just have random scraps in them. I found hand-stitched embroidery used by campers to put on a party, a beard cut out of fabric used as a costume for a music video and a complete pair of hand-sewn kid-sized muslin pants that were featured on our fashion runway. All signs of the creativity, imagination and ingenuity our campers use to bring history to life. Our supply stash reflects the generosity of our community. From used board games to toilet paper tubes, we have countless items stored that our caring staff members, volunteers and visitors have donated to us to use for youth programs. Whenever I put out a call for supplies, they always come through. (Yes, even when I requested 70 empty soup cans!)

Museums tell stories about the artifacts they display, and the supplies in our classroom tell the story of camp: it isn’t just about the next popsicle stick log cabin. It’s about watching campers work together to create something special and seeing how they learn and grow as the summer goes on. It’s about recognizing the dedication of our teen volunteers who donate their time and talents to make camp a better experience. It’s about our contract teachers and museum staff who spend hours, days and sometimes months working to provide positive experiences that our campers will remember for years to come. I realized that even in this time of uncertainty and frustration, camp doesn’t just go away when camp doesn’t happen.

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