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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Most Historic Houses Just Sit There": Activating the Present at Historic House Museums
by Maust, Theodore, M.A., Temple University, 2018, 87; 10793092
Abstract (Summary)

Historic house museums (HHMs) are contradictory spaces, private places made public. They (often) combine the real with the reproduction. Drawing from object reverence, taxonomy, and tableaux over a century and a half of practice, the American HHM arrives in the present as a Frankenstein's monster of nostalgia.

Chamounix Mansion has been a youth hostel since 1964. It has also been a historic house museum, though when it became one and when—if—it ever stopped being one is an open question. Chamounix is a space where the past, present, and future all share space, as guests move through historic spaces, have conversations about anything or nothing at all, and plan their next day, their next destination, their next major life move. It is a place that seems fertile for meaning-making. It also provides a fascinating case study of what HHMs have been and what they might become.

The Friends of Chamounix Mansion employed the methods of other HHMs as it tried to achieve recognition as an HHM in the 1960s, but by the 1980s, they began claiming the hostel’s usage as another form of authenticity.

As HHMs face a variety of challenges today, and seek to make meaning with visitors and neighbors alike, the example of Chamounix Mansion offers a case study of how embracing usage might offer new directions for meaning-making.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bruggeman, Seth C.
Commitee: Adair, Bill, Lowe, Hilary I.
School: Temple University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: MAI 57/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: American history
Keywords: Historic house, Historic house museum, Hostel, Interpretation, Museum, Public history
Publication Number: 10793092
ISBN: 978-0-355-95497-5
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