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Malka Benjamin at Scrooby Manor Malka Benjamin (left) and Sue Allan (right) visit Scrooby Manor. Photo courtesy Bassetlaw District Council

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A Transatlantic Trip to bring US Living Museum to Life
Malka Benjamin of Plimoth Plantation, a museum in Plymouth, Mass, visits England to find out more about the Mayflower

Published on May 2, 2019

Malka Benjamin of the Plimoth Plantation museum in Massachusetts recently visited the UK to trace the steps of some of the important Pilgrim women from the Mayflower era.

Malka is Associate Director of Interpretation and Training at Plimoth Plantation, but far from just an administrative role, Malka's work is much more hands on. The Plimoth Plantation museum is a living re-enactment of what it was like to live in Massachusetts in 1627, replicating the original Plymouth Colony established by the Pilgrims in the 17th Century. Malka explained that "As a first-person historical interpreter, my job is to take on the identity of a real person who lived almost 400 years ago in order to create a fun and engaging experience for people to learn about history. Five days a week, from 9 to 5, I get to travel back in time. In the village, we follow the calendar year, so whatever date you visit us at Plimoth Plantation, it will be that day in 1627. Over the course of the year we follow the typical rhythms of a 17th-century agricultural community. So every time you visit, it’s a new and different adventure! We always portray 1627, so if you were to visit next year, it would still be 1627—we never get to 1628."

Malka's UK visit saw her retracing the steps of a number of Mayflower passengers who she has brought to life, including Fear Brewster (the daughter of William Brewster from Scrooby) and Susanna White, who also lived at Scrooby Manor. Research undertaken by Sue Allan, a local historian/author and Chair of Pilgrim Fathers Origins Association, has offered Plimoth Plantation the opportunity to more accurately highlight the valuable contribution of women to the original Plymouth colony. Sue Allan's 2017 book, In search of Pilgrim Susanna White-Winslow, in particular has helped to shine a light on Mayflower passenger Susanna White and her North Nottinghamshire links.

Reflecting on her visit, Malka noted a particular highlight as "was undoubtedly the visit to Scrooby Manor ... it actually gave me goose-bumps to feel that I was standing in the grounds that Susanna had trodden over 400 years ago." As celebrations continue to be planned for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower, research is still helping us to better understand the lives of those who took part in the voyage.

If you're interested in exploring North Nottinghamshire's Mayflower Connections, Sue Allan offers tours of the area - check out www.mayflowerpilgrimtours.co.uk. More information on the Plimoth Plantation museum can be found at www.plimoth.org

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