From House to Home: Reinterpreting Dumbarton House


How do the museum staff in a historic house museum determine what the house looked like when its early occupants made it their home? Which room was used as the best bed chamber? How did the family arrange their furniture? What did they most likely choose to hang on the walls? Did they use carpet or floorcloths, or did they leave the floors bare? Did they choose paint or wallpaper?

This museum-wide exhibition showed how these and other questions are answered through painstaking studies of the clues in each room, with the aid of primary sources such as the residents’ correspondence and possessions, and other resources which indicate customs and practices in similar homes in the period. The results of the exhaustive research that has been carried out in the rooms of Dumbarton House will show in the coming years as, room to room, changes are made to reflect accurately their daily use during the early Federal period.