The items on display ought to be behind glass at a museum, he said. Instead, he encourages visitors to touch and heft the items and connect with life during the war in a tactile and immediate way.
The 185 objects that Buck displays are hidden keys that open up knowledge about science, medicine, recreation and romance, he said.
Enjoying Buck’s hands-on approach to connecting with the past were Dan Neal and his young sons. They were having a go at the Civil War-era version of baseball.
The ball was a walnut wrapped in horsehair and sewn up in dark brown leather. The bat was a polished wooden dowel that looked like it fell from a backyard tree.
Neal said he and his sons were having a good time.
“I love history anyhow,” he said, “and the chance to teach them a little about history and spend some time together is great.”
Neal’s family can track their lineage to a combatant in the Battle of Antietam. His sons carry one of the soldier's family names as their shared middle name.
The ability to get close to history is what drives Greg Gallagher to re-enact. He’s been participating as a Civil War soldier for five or six years.
“It’s one way to honor what these guys did,” said Gallagher. “When you do it, live it, breathe it and wear the clothes you see how difficult it was.”
Keeping interest in history alive takes effort, said Gallagher. Seeing Civil War soldiers in uniform, firing weapons and marching gives students motivation to study their local and national history.
Gallagher said that re-enacting is a good hobby for those who enjoy camping.
“This is how I go camping now,” he said.
During the recent power outages, Gallagher took some of his Civil War gear and set up camp in his backyard.
“It's all very functional,” he said.
People who dabble in rustic trade work like sewing, knitting and candle-making will not only find kindred souls in the hobby, but a market for their crafts among other re-enactors, said Gallagher.