Family Museum Blog
What is a family museum and why have one?
You belong to the world’s only universal institution, the family. Since you are reading this blog, you may be among the 60 percent of Americans who are interested in family history. You also may be among the some 40 percent of adults who have attended a museum in the past year.
You also may be an antique collector, historical reenactor, Civil War buff, quilter or crocheter, antique gun or car enthusiast, gardener of heirloom plants, photographer, scrapbooker, artisan baker, clock or instrument maker or collector, or some combination of all of these. Perhaps you are a parent or grandparent who wants to pass on your family heritage to your children without boring them to tears.
If so, this blog, and the hobby it explains, are for you. Making your own family museum is a natural outgrowth of all of these popular hobbies and interests, and is the most fun of them all because it’s all about you and your loved ones.
We are accustomed to going to a museum or historical site to experience history first hand through seeing exhibits full of historical artifacts. We trek by the millions to Williamsburg to experience colonial life, the Smithsonian to see Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Gettysburg to see the battlefield where thousands of Americans died. We build memorials to honor our war dead. We take classes and buy books to understand who we are through discovering history.
And yet most of our history is right where we are, at home. Stuffed under beds, on closet shelves, out in the garage, down in the basement, and up in our attics is a treasure trove of our nation’s history. Museums hold only a small percentage of historical artifacts. The rest are held by private collectors who wouldn’t dream of parting with great grandma’s organ that survived a flash flood in 1900 or grandpa’s hand carpenter tools and the cabinet he built with them during the Depression.
The mission of this blog is to convince you that your stewardship over these items is important to America’s and your family’s heritage, that you can display and preserve them as well as a museum can, and that doing so is an enjoyable and deeply satisfying hobby that can draw your family together.
A family museum can be as small as a display of photographs or a shadow box on the dining room wall and as elaborate as an entire restored historical home. It can cost you almost nothing or thousands of dollars, depending on your interest and resources. It’s the ideally scalable hobby. It can be engaged in during an hour stolen from a busy schedule or pursued for hours and days at a time. It is a hobby for the patient and the impatient alike.
Having a family museum is fun, but it also is serious business. The magnitude of the challenges to the permanence of the American family are without precedent and have brought calamity upon parents and their children amid an onslaught of emotional disorders and upheaval caused by broken homes. Successful, multi-generational families and marriages are showcased less and less in the media. Adults working for many corporations are subjected to a constant barrage of pressure to put their careers before their families, pushing the family out of its central role in our destiny and off to the side. The mobility of many families robs children and adults of the personal and family identity that comes in communities in which their families are known. A family museum can help counteract these influences by being a visual reminder of the permanent, multi-generational nature of your family and your identity as a member of it. A family museum can celebrate successful patromony and matrimony, the priceless heritage that are your children, values that helped your ancestors survive past crises and challenges. It can showcase loving, responsible, nurturing mothers and fathers who don’t get recognized elsewhere, thus inspiring respect for them. Showing evidence of family members can encourage us to respect them as an asset and thus treat them as one. It can remind you why you love each other.
This blog arises partly out of a conviction that the strength of a nation lies in the strength of its families, and that strengthening and reforming families can solve most social problems more effectively than strengthening any other social institution. As Victor L. Brown wrote:
“The family is the only truly universal human institution. There are societies without religions, without formal education, without legal systems, even without formal economic systems. There is, however, no recorded instance of a society or culture without the family. The family is the largest special interest group on the planet. … There s simply nothing larger, more encompassing, or more powerful in human behavior than the family and its consequences, whether benevolent or detrimental.”