If you have found this blog, then odds are good that you direct, staff, or volunteer at a historic house museum. Welcome – please sit, have some coffee, we’re here to help! Introduce yourself, first names only here, if you please. Would you like to share what brings you here today?
My name is Michelle and I am the Chair of the Historic House Museum Committee. We are an affinity group of AASLH. The Committee is comprised of people just like you who are passionate about historic buildings and want to make them sustainable as museums long after we are gone.
Historic House Museums and Historic Sites were the cornerstones of the American preservation movement. As early as the 1840s, local efforts began to preserve Revolutionary-era forts (Ft. Meigs in Indiana for example) from destruction. This was followed by the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association and their famous campaign to save George Washington’s home in 1853. What makes these efforts unique is that they were grassroots – federal and state governments were not involved. House museums and historic sites still largely operate on a grassroots model.
Since the days of the Ladies’ Association, house museums have sprung up in virtually every town, some cities number their house museums in the dozens. The number of house museums is up, but attendance numbers and revenue are down. That is not a sustainable trend. In many communities there is a culture of demolition by neglect – we can’t afford to maintain it, so we’re just going to cross our fingers, close our eyes, and hope for the best.
The Historic House Museum Committee believes in sustainability. So, over the coming months and years, we will be exploring innovative options and alternatives for historic house museums.
Here are a few links to get you started.
- AASLH’s A Sustainability Kit for Historic House Museums
- American House Museums in the 21st Century.
- Anarchist Guide to Historic House Museums: White Paper UNCC
Happy House Museum-ing, y’all!
Michelle Zupan, Chair of the AASLH Historic House Committee, is the Curator & Director of Hickory Hill, the historic home of a very opinionated and politically incorrect populist senator from Georgia at the turn of the century. When she is not managing budgets or teaching children about the Recent Unpleasantness she is feeding heirloom chickens or harvesting Sea Island Red Peas. www.hickory-hill.org