House & Home

House & Home logo and exhibit panel

“...whatever happens in the world—whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over—eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house. Wars, famines, the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment—they are all there in your sofas and chest of drawers, tucked into the folds of your curtains, in the downy softness of your pillows, in the paint on your walls and the water in your pipes. So the history of household life isn't just a history of beds and sofas and kitchen stoves, as I had vaguely supposed it would be, but of scurvy and guano and the Eiffel Tower and bedbugs and body-snatching and just about everything else that has ever happened. Houses aren't refuges from history. They are where history ends up.” –taken from the introduction of Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Our houses are more than a structure where we sleep and store our belongings, they represent us in the most practical and honest way. House & Home is the story of objects, of communities, of buildings, of changes, of values, of people.

How do things like weather, population, immigration, war, agriculture, transportation, and economy affect how we build our homes? What household items have changed the way we live and work? What makes a house a “home”?

These questions and themes run through this hands-on, educational exhibition.

Today, owning a house is iconic of the American Dream, of success and security. Laws have been made to protect homeowners and to encourage even those with little money to buy their own home. Through self-satisfaction and pride of ownership, an economy can grow and thrive. But the home industry also has the power to topple an economy.

Americans' connection to home is palpable. You can hear it in songs, read of it in books and poetry, see children “play house”, and even scroll through thousands of blogs and websites totally devoted to home improvement, decorating, and organization.

House & Home explores the idea that architecture and material culture can tell us stories about who we are, how we live, and what we aspire to be. Through photographs, old advertisements, historic documents, vintage household items, and first-hand accounts of home life, the exhibit will demonstrate the familiar, yet complex, world of “home”.

By exploring the variety of houses, past and present, you can discern how the way we live and what we value shapes the look and layout of our houses. Adobe makes sense in the Southwest, but would be quite impractical for a coastal New England house. See in this exhibition how the materials we use to make our houses has been born out of what is available to use and what the climate and culture of the region demanded. Then consider how things may look different in the future.

A walk through this exhibition is a walk through time and place, but it is also a window into the future. What story would your house tell about you? What makes any wood, brick, stone, glass, or mud structure a home?

Thanks to the collaboration of NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Mid America Arts Alliance, House & Home is here to tell these stories. After all, like Bryson said, our houses are where history ends up.