Why House Museums?

Some people drive along a country road and don’t notice an old house with a sign outside. I, on the other hand, pull over to the side of the road and can’t wait for the chance to wander into that same house. I enjoy seeing children’s toys, a writing desk or cooking utensils. I try to imagine the everyday life of the people who used them. Every house tells a story – stories about life, love, loss, money, war and survival.

I have toured house museums from New York to Dublin. I love house museums, but that love did not rub off on my children. My daughter once told me, “I don’t want to see another house where they show us the bed someone died in!” When my children left for college, I decided to spend some time exploring house museums in my area. When I looked for a list of house museums, I couldn’t find one. So, I started keeping a list. Whenever I visited a house museum, someone would tell me about another one. Each one led to more house museums and my list grew. That’s when I began to think about sharing what I have learned about house museums.

Before you plan to visit a house museum, please know that most house museums rely on volunteer docents to open the houses and, consequently, can be closed at any time with little or no notice. I have been to more than one house museum with a note on the door saying they are closed or will be back soon. I think that’s part of the charm of a house museum. You might not think it’s so charming if you planned your day around visiting one particular house. All museum contact and tour information is subject to change and should only be relied on as a general guide. For the most up to date information about any house museum, I strongly suggest you call or visit the website before you go.

There is probably a house museum near you that you have gone by a thousand times, never giving it a thought. Next time you see an “OPEN” sign outside an old house, stop in and step back in time.