Historic House Museums

The Historic House Tells It Like It Was

Of all the ways we have of connecting to the past, as far as I’m concerned, the historic house museum trumps all others when it comes to understanding  life in a place and time beyond memory.

It’s here we can come closest to the people who went before us. These are the very walls that enclosed them. Here they stood before the fire. Here are the mirrors that reflected their movements in the parlor. This is the stair they climbed on their way to bed.

When we tune in to the height of the ceilings, the nearness of the walls, the path we travel from room to room, the narrowness of a passageway or the lack or presence of natural light, we begin to feel in our bones what daily life was like for those who lived there long ago.

I tend to be a ghost skeptic, but if you were to ask me if there are ghosts in the Merchant’s House, I’d say, “Of course; that’s the whole point!”

One thought on “The Historic House Tells It Like It Was

  1. I agree completely that the visit to an historic house brings one closer to the past than any other experience. Over the years I have visited many–those once owned by the famous, the noble, the wealthy, and the poor. My favorite was Goethe’s summer house in Weimar, Germany. Like the Merchant’s House, it is restored and is furnished with pieces from Goethe’s time, if not his own. What makes it so wonderful is that it was built in a park. and the park remains, so there is nothing modern around the building. Looking through the second floor window, I thought, “Goethe must have done this.” And in the breakfast room, I thought , when he lifted his eyes from his broetchen, this is what he saw.”

    Today I am helping my husband catalogue his collection of rare books. A few minutes ago he handed me a volume with the book plate of someone well known in the 17th century. Maybe even better than visiting a house is holding a book of a person gone 300 years. Hints and echoes for sure.


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