House museums have a bad rapport in the preservation community, where creativity, adaptive reuse, and sustainability are key. The main concern: will enough people visit them to keep them running? Does anyone really like house museums? At least for the great people in American history, the answer seems to be yes. The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, for example, receives double the visitors of the nearby and perhaps more architecturally interesting Robie House. Nearby is the Hemingway House, which has inspired the names of nearby businesses and a Hemingway District.
To me, a house museum is more about the house than the museum. It’s about getting to know a place and getting a three-dimensional glimpse into history. The Hemingway birthplace in Oak Park does that better, in fact, than it teaches about Hemingway, the writer. There is a good reason for that: the Hemingway birthplace was…
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