Saturday, June 7, 2014

New Exhibit – The History of Houses and the Things That Make Them Home

 
New Exhibit – The History of Houses and the Things That Make Them Home
Exhibit Opens Sunday, June 29, 2014 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Eden Woolley House, 703 Deal Road, Ocean, NJ 07712


Since prehistoric times, where we live has been about much more than shelter (think of those cave paintings). A new exhibit explores just how our human instinct to nest has played out in the structures we inhabit and the stuff we put in them. “The History of Houses and the Things that Make Them Home” opens Sunday, June 29, in the Richmond Gallery of the Eden Woolley House.

The new exhibit examines the influences on the design and content of the American home--from the traditions early settlers brought with them, to the availability of materials, to the transforming power of technology. It takes guests on a virtual house tour, revealing room by room how things have changed and how those changes have shaped our lives.

What is home?

It’s where the heart is and there’s no place like it. Beyond shelter, our homes express our tastes, values, and social status. Our neighborhoods abound with homes that illustrate the point, and the new exhibit asks us to see our familiar surroundings in a new light.

It reveals the lineage of familiar house styles--colonial, neoclassical, Victorian, and modern, for example. It explains that the colonists of the new world built houses in the style of the old. That the founding fathers, all men of the Enlightenment, adapted the designs of Greeks and Romans whose rationality they admired. That the clutter and ornamentation of the Victorians expressed their fascination with goods made possible by the Industrial Revolution and made available by the railroads. And that twentieth century architects rejected Victorian fussiness in favor of designs that challenged old assumptions and took advantage of new technologies and building techniques.

The exhibit takes us inside

House design is just the beginning. The exhibit takes us inside, room by room.
For all but the rich, our earliest homes were one-room dwellings. The very concept of a single-purpose room (living, dining, bathing, etc.) is relatively new. And even in early multiple-room houses, people moved from room to room more in pursuit of sunlight and warmth than specific activity. In effect, all rooms were “living rooms.”

Revolutionary new technologies --indoor plumbing, central heating, and electric light, in particular--made room specialization practical. The bathroom, bedchamber, dining room, library, and parlor emerged as distinct spaces in ways that both reflect and influence life style.

Take the living room (aka parlor, drawing room, sitting room, and salon). It has come full circle. As parlor, it was a room often reserved to receive visitors. In time, it became the place where the family “withdrew” to gather around the piano --later the radio and then television. Today, the “great room” has assumed that role and in many homes, the living room is again a more formal space reserved for entertaining guests.

The exhibit makes that case that every house has a story, every room has a history. Join us June 29 to learn more. “The History of Houses and the Things that Make Them Home” will be up through June 2015.

The Township of Ocean Historical Museum, founded in 1984, is a member-supported, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey. Its headquarters, the Eden Woolley House, is one of the few 18th century structures still in existence in the Township and is open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.), Thursday Evenings (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and the first and second Sundays of each month (1p.m. to 4 p.m.). For more information, please call 732-531-2136.