San Miguel, California. Mission San Miguel Arcangel has a good self-guided tour. It begins with a room describing the daily life of the indigenous people, Salinans, and then continues through other rooms and corridors, telling the story of daily life on the mission. The mission buildings are rustic, the tile floors are uneven, and it seems to portray what the mission inhabitants may have seen every day. They explained that although the central area is now a peaceful garden, it was a wook area in the days when the mission was in operation.
What comes to mind is how difficult it is for a museum to portray life as it was centuries ago in a way that people comprehend it; those of us visiting the museum tend to see things through our modern-day filters. At the Ventura Mission, Dee Ann was present when a visitor asked what the bells were that she had been seeing along the road. The mission worker explained that they mark El Camino Real. Dee Ann recommended that she look at a card in the store that explained how El Camino Real was the route people took when they traveled between the missions. “Oh! So the bells showed them which way to go,” the visitor speculated. A worker at Mission La Purisma had a similar experience when a visitor complained that she felt the exhibits were crude and disrespectful, “like that path that is marked ‘The Kings Highway.’ If it were really the Kings Highway, it would have been paved!” Although these are extreme examples of misunderstandings of life in the 1700s, it is very difficult for us, with our modern day filters, to truly understand how people of the 18th century experienced everyday life, how they thought, and why they made many of the decisions they did. If we really want to understand those who came before us, somehow we need to look beyond our own worldviews and find a way to place ourselves in their shoes.