Museums Are Home – And Vice Versa

Early last Saturday morning found me sitting in the education room at the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains, NJ, browsing through the program of the morning’s speakers, looking forward to exploring the museum’s current exhibit. Tucked into the program I found an announcement for the upcoming weekend activities commemorating the opening of the new Rose Valley Museum (see In the News).

Don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t know much about architect William Price’s 1901 experimental utopian Arts and Crafts community outside Philadelphia. Most people don’t, which is precisely why members of the Rose Valley Historical Society have been working hard to secure a permanent location for a modest museum to attract and educate visitors curious to learn more about Rose Valley.

Just as early supporters rallied in the 1980s to save Gustav Stickley’s 1911 home in Morris Plains, NJ, and in doing so created the Stickley Museum to attract and educate visitors curious to learn more about Craftsman Farms.

When I first visited Craftsman Farms in 1990, it was a shell of a building, with white-washed log walls, water-stained chestnut beams, and no Arts and Crafts furniture. Those early supporters knew this would always be a “house” museum — never a gleaming, multi-storied building with a long list of corporate sponsors and high society and celebrity benefactors.

To survive and to grow it would depend on grass-roots contributors, individuals who would actually know what the museum represents and why it is important to save and support it.

And while every major art museum has its prerequisite sampling of Arts and Crafts antiques, most often in sterile displays devoid of any evidence of possible human habitation, I could not help but think how appropriate it is that so many Arts and Crafts museums across the country are, in effect, “house” museums:  the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio (Oak Park, IL), the Gamble House (Pasadena, CA), the Marston House (San Diego, CA), the Roycroft community (East Aurora, NY), the Darwin Martin House (Buffalo, NY), the Robie House (Chicago, IL), the Riordan Mansion (Flagstaff, AZ), Taliesin (Spring Green, WI and Scottsdale, AZ), and more.

And how appropriate that is, for the Arts and Crafts movement was always focused on the home and how, when appropriately designed and furnished, it could foster and improve family relationships.

So, I hope you will seek out your nearby Arts and Crafts house museums, both where you live and on your travels, and will support them, from making an annual donation to purchasing items in their gift shops, both in person and online.

For together, we grow stronger.

Until next Monday,

“Home is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”  – Dennis Lehane