Domesticating History: The Political Origins of America's House Museums

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Overview

Focusing on George Washington's Mount Vernon, Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, and the Booker T. Washington National Monument, Patricia West shows how historic houses reflect less the lives and times of their famous inhabitants than the political pressures of the eras during which they were transformed into museums. In the late 1850s, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association evoked a mythologized George Washington to campaign for the "rescue" of his home, glossing over his role as a slaveholder to appeal to patrons on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. In 1912, the establishment of Orchard House as a museum paid homage to Alcott's novel Little Women and unified the Woman's Club of Concord, Massachusetts, which was bitterly divided over women's suffrage. In the 1920s and 1930s, Monticello became a touchstone for professional house restoration and an idealized Thomas Jefferson a focal point for a rift-weary Democratic Party. During the 1950s, the birthplace of Booker T. Washington became a monument created largely by politicians besieged by conflicts over civil rights. In Domesticating History, West contends that house museum founders, while claiming to create sites strictly devoted to individual lives, were in fact establishing monuments steeped in the issues of their times.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Extremely well-researched and judicious. . . . The most distinctive aspect of the book is the author's persistent emphasis upon the political context that shaped the creation of those house museums. . . . [F]illed with delicious ironies.”—Michael Kammen, The Journal of American History

“[A] nuanced account. . . . [and] crisp little book.”—American Historical Review

Domesticating History will undoubtedly become required reading for students and teachers of public history, museum practitioners, and, I hope, historians of women and public life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well. The historical perspective West provides is especially welcome amid public perception that historic house museums are falling prey to pandemic political correctness.”—The Public Historian
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560988113
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1999
  • Pages: 241
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Inventing a House Undivided: Antebellum Cultural Politics and the Enshrinement of Mount Vernon 1
2 Gender Politics and the Orchard House Museum 39
3 Campaigning for Monticello 93
4 "The Bricks of Compromise Settle into Place": Booker T. Washington's Birthplace and the Civil Rights Movement 129
Conclusion 159
Notes 163
Index 233
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  • Posted July 7, 2014

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    Amazing.....!Excellent......!Just enjoy it.....!

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