The historic house museum exemplifies the enormous power of the museum idea to make specimens out of the material world. In fact, houses are an old museum form, very numerous and globally spread. This paper surveys the diverse inspirations of the species, its peculiar expressions, and its formative/deformative relationship to the English country house, via case studies in the UK, the US, and Australia. The paper identifies a characteristic museology that has developed to manage the conditions of house museums and suggests that the contemporary practice of heritage management derives an important strand of its direction from the traditions of house museology. Lastly, it considers the challenge, 'who wants house museums?'