Strawbery Banke is unique among outdoor history museums in presenting an authentic neighborhood, with most of the 32 historic buildings on their original foundations, the earliest dating to 1695. These structures, along with archaeological evidence and historical collections, provide our strongest link to the lives of the people who lived in this neighborhood.

Historical roleplayers at Strawbery Banke incorporate costumes, props, artifacts, architecture, gardens, and demonstrations into their interpretation to stimulate the imagination and help create a living visualization of the past.

Q: What is the difference between an interpreter or demonstrator and a roleplayer?
An interpreter or demonstrator is a museum guide who helps visitors to understand history from a modern perspective. A roleplayer is an actor who portrays a real person who lived in this neighborhood in the past. Roleplayers speak from a historical perspective, meaning that they will only talk about the time in which their character lived.

Q: What can I learn from an interpreter or demonstrator?
Interpreters and demonstrators help to tell the story of Strawbery Banke from beginning to end. They have knowledge in many areas and can answer questions about the history of the site, the families who lived here, and the objects in the furnished houses or exhibits. They can also help visitors with practical things such as finding a restroom, exhibit, or demonstrations. Talk to an interpreter or demonstrator to make connections between the past and the present.

Q: What can I learn from a roleplayer?
Roleplayers tell the story of Strawbery Banke by acting out a chapter in the story. They can answer questions about the person they are portraying and their lives in this neighborhood, but their answers are limited to the time period and experiences of the individual they portray. Talk to a roleplayer to get an in-depth look at a specific time and place in American history.

Q: What kinds of people are portrayed at Strawbery Banke Museum?
On a given day, visitors might encounter laborers, merchants, immigrants, mariners, homemakers, millworkers, business owners, tradesmen, or politicians going about their daily lives. Their various stories and perspectives allow us to view history in both diverse and unifying ways.

Q: Where do roleplayers get their information?
Character portrayals at Strawbery Banke are based on real people who lived in this neighborhood in the past, so there are many existing records that can help to tell the life story of each individual.

Primary sources such as diaries, letters, photos, and oral histories from the individual’s lifetime can give us names, dates, family information, and an idea of what they might have experienced daily. Census data, city directories, and legal documents can tell us who lived in the neighborhood in a given year, where they came from, and what property they owned.

Artifacts, architecture, and archaeological clues in the landscape can show us how homes, gardens, and objects were used during an individual’s lifetime. Roleplayers spend many hours researching and studying these sources before they begin working onsite.

Q: Where do roleplayers get their costumes?
Roleplayers wear accurate reproductions of clothing from their eras, based on garments in the museum collections, on paintings, drawings and photographs, and on research conducted by the museum and the roleplayers themselves. Clothing items are made using historically appropriate materials and techniques, which can vary from era to era. Many roleplayers make their own clothing, but most often it is sewn by a professional seamstress or costumer.

Q: Which characters will I meet during my visit?
Characters change from day to day, but you might have a chance to meet any of the following guests from the past:

William Pitt Tavern (1777)

  • John Stavers, owner and proprietor of the William Pitt Tavern
  • Katherine Walker Stavers, wife of tavern keeper John Stavers
  • John Stavers Jr., eldest son of John Stavers Sr. and driver of the Flying Stage
  • Mary Stavers Frazer, married daughter of John Stavers Sr.
  • Margaret Stavers Davis, married daughter of John Stavers Sr.
  • Theodore Davis, son-in-law of John Stavers Sr. and owner of the Flying Stage
  • Lucy Stavers, the young daughter of John Stavers Sr.

Goodwin Mansion, 1870

  • Sarah Parker Rice Goodwin, wife of former New Hampshire governor Ichabod Goodwin
  • Susan Boardman Goodwin Dewey, married daughter of Sarah & Ichabod Goodwin
  • John Ragan Jr., Irish immigrant and day laborer at the Goodwin Mansion

Shapiro House, 1919

  • Abraham Shapiro, a Russian-Jewish immigrant, and local businessman
  • Sarah Tapper Shapiro, Russian-Jewish immigrant, and wife of Abraham Shapiro
  • Molly Rosamond Shapiro, Russian-Jewish immigrant and eldest niece of Sarah & Abraham Shapiro

Thomas Bailey Aldrich Memorial, 1919

  • James Hannon, former butler to Aldrich family and current caretaker of Memorial building
  • Mary Mulcahey Hannon, wife of James Hannon and tour guide at the Aldrich Memorial
  • Mary Griffin, former Haven School teacher and tour guide at the Aldrich Memoria
  • Frederick Griffin, brother of tour guide Mary Griffin and neighborhood visitor to the Aldrich Memorial

Marden-Abbott House & Store, 1943

  • Bertha Abbott, owner and proprietor of The Little Corner Store
  • Mabel Abbott Holt, married daughter of Bertha Abbott
  • Dorothy Holt, granddaughter of Bertha Abbott

Strawbery Banke also welcomes historical re-enactors and living history performers and craftspeople during the museum's signature events: An American Celebration and Candlelight Stroll.

Watch Richard Spicer perform on his historical harpsichord in the 18th century Pitt Tavern, here.