chapter  19
Ideas versus things: the balancing act of interpreting historic house museums: Kim Christensen
Pages 15

Historical house museums have a rich history within the United States, dating to midnineteenth-century efforts to save two sites associated with George Washington. In 1850, Hasbrouck House, Washington’s Revolutionary War military headquarters in New York became the fi rst historic residence preserved by state efforts and opened to the public. Likewise, Ann Pamela Cunningham’s efforts to preserve Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation as a public shrine to his memory, which began in 1853, were the fi rst of their kind (Butler 2002). Both of these founding historic house museums were created with particular purposes in mind – to hearken back to the nation’s founding and inspire patriotism during the tumultuous period leading up to the American Civil War (West 1999, Stahlgren and Stottman 2007). Since these early efforts to preserve houses associated with signifi cant historical fi gures, historic house museums have become a commonplace feature of the American museum landscape. The use of these house museums has continued to be implicitly linked to concerns of the present, although these concerns themselves have necessarily shifted through time.