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Connecting Object to Story in Historical House Museums

Project by William Bottoms III (2018)

Budgetary and staffing constraints in historical house museums often result in disorganized or non-existent curatorial documentation, and ultimately, interpretive stagnation. The purpose of this project was to facilitate the interpretation of collections within historical house museums by bridging the gap between object and story, invigorating the interpretive process. To achieve this purpose, two objectives were pursued. The first objective oversaw the creation of a comprehensive curatorial document titled, “The Native American Artifact Collection at the Hiwan Museum: Post 1979,” which identified the source communities of the Hiwan Museum’s eighty-seven Native American artifacts and interpreted them in accordance to curatorial best practices. The second objective aimed to produce a distributive interpretive tool template for historical house museums to assert curatorial voice over their collections and organize their institutional narratives. The project progressed in three phases. The first phase gathered information from the Hiwan Museum’s accession records and took photographs of the artifacts. The second phased identified and interpreted the artifacts. The third phase concentrated on the fabrication of an interpretive instrument based on the lessons learned in the first two phases. The results of the project encapsulated major findings within the Hiwan Museum’s collection establishing a foundation for continued curatorial research. The interpretive tool template demonstrated its potential as a standard-bearer for curatorial best practices in educating communities about their heritage through narrative structures.

Keywords: Class of 2018, curation, interpretation, objects, house museums, house museum, museum, museum studies, museology


Bottoms III, W. (2018). Connecting Object to Story in Historical House Museums. Unpublished master’s project, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.