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Historic house museums in the United States and the United Kingdom A History

posted on 2017-01-01, 00:00 authored by Linda YoungLinda Young
Historic House Museums in the United States and the United Kingdom: A History addresses the phenomenon of historic houses as a distinct species of museum. Everyone understands the special nature of an art museum, a national museum, or a science museum, but ‘house museum’ nearly always requires clarification. In the US it’s almost synonymous with historic preservation; in the UK, it’s simply unfamiliar, the very idea being conflated with stately homes and the National Trust.

By analyzing the motivation of the founders, and subsequent keepers, of house museums, the author identifies a typology that casts light on what they were intended to represent and their significance (or lack of it) today.

The book examines:
·         Heroes’ houses: once inhabited by great persons (eg, Shakespeare’s birthplace, Washington’s Mount Vernon);
·         Artwork houses: national identity as specially visible in house design, style, technique (eg, Frank Lloyd Wright houses; Modernist houses);
·         Collectors’ houses: a microcosm of collecting in-domestic-situ, subsequently presented to the nation as the exemplars of taste (eg Sir John Soane’s Museum, Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Museum);
·         English country houses: the palaces of the aristocracy, maintained thanks to primogeniture; threatened with redundancy and rescued as museums to be touted as the peak of English national culture – whose historical influence as an image of prestige formed (or deformed) many house museums in the New World;
·         Everyman/woman’s social history houses: the modern, demotic response to elite houses, presented as social history but tinged with generic ancestor veneration (eg, tenement house museums in Glasgow and New York).



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Rowman & Littlefield

Place of publication

Lanham, Md.







Publication classification

A1 Books - authored - research

Copyright notice

2017, Rowman & Littlefield

Number of chapters