Elmhurst History Museum takes a look at residential architecture

'House & Home' exhibit examines parallel evolution of American culture and domiciles

House & Home
Ten men building a wood frame house, Omaha Reservation, Nebraska, 1877, black-and-white photograph by William Henry Jackson, courtesy The National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution. (Photo provided by Elmhurst History Museum)

ELMHURST – Home. It’s where we all come from. Whether we have lived in military barracks or college dormitories; in rental apartments or condos; in public housing or gated communities; in trailer parks or row houses – where we live is home. But the word “home” also reminds us of where we grew up and the type of house we dream about and work toward.

Over time, Americans have lived in all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons. This spring, Elmhurst History Museum invites the public on a tour of America’s rich history of residential architecture in a traveling exhibit from the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. entitled “House & Home.” The exhibit embarks on a tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, to explore the varied history and many cultural meanings of the American home. “House & Home” provides a national story with a personal focus, exploring the remarkable transformations in technology, laws, and consumer culture that have brought about enormous change in American domestic life.

“House & Home” opens at the Elmhurst History Museum, located at 120 E. Park Ave. in Elmhurst, on April 7 through May 25. The exhibit is made possible through the National Endowment for the Humanities’ NEH on the Road initiative, and is organized by the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. and is toured by the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Local sponsors include Elmhurst 255 Downtown Apartments and L.W. Reedy Real Estate.

Exhibit highlights

“House & Home” tells the story of American architecture through a kaleidoscopic array of artifacts, video, photographs, and construction models. The exhibit encourages visitors to explore how our ideal of the perfect house and our experience of what it means to “be at home” have changed over time. Items such as domestic furnishings, home construction materials, photographs, hands-on interactive components, and films contribute to the story.

The exhibition also showcases domestic objects – from cooking utensils to telephones – and traces how household goods tell the stories of our family traditions, heritage and the activity of daily living. Another key section of “House & Home” explores how different laws, historic trends and economic factors have impacted housing in America.

‘House & Home’ Programs

The Elmhurst History Museum staff has created a number of exciting learning experiences during the “House & Home” exhibit’s run including a tour, lectures, workshops and family programs:

School’s Out Family Workshop: Our Home Story, 1 p.m. April 14: Families will tell the story of their home and create a memory keepsake using a photo of their own house.

House & Home Story Times, 9:30 a.m. April 19 and May 3: Preschoolers and their caregivers will explore the themes of the exhibit with a story and activity.

Understanding the National Housing Crisis of 2008 Lecture, 2 p.m. April 20: Steven W. Kuehl, economic development and Wisconsin state director for the community development and policy studies division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, will share his insights on economic development, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), fair lending laws and consumer banking regulations.

Elmhurst Neighborhoods Tour, 2 p.m. April 30: Participants will tour Elmhurst via bus with Elmhurst History Museum’s collections curator Nancy Wilson to learn how the city developed over time.

Hunting for Your Home’s History Workshop, 2 p.m. May 7: Participants will learn steps to research house history with instructor Jean Guarino, PhD, an independent writer and researcher specializing in the fields of architecture and historic preservation.

Americans and Their Homes Lecture, 2 p.m. May 11: Award-winning author and history professor Michael H. Ebner explores the exterior and interior attributes of homes in the western suburbs and Chicago metropolitan area.

All programs take place in the Elmhurst History Museum’s Education Center, located just south of the Glos Mansion, and pre-registration is requested. For registration, ticket pricing and more information, go to the Programs section of the museum’s web site at www.elmhursthistory.org or email EHMprograms@elmhurst.org.

Gain perspective on Americans and their homes by exploring “House & Home” through May 25 at the Elmhurst History Museum. Museum galleries are open on Sunday and Tuesday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is free, and limited free parking is available. For the latest exhibit and program information, please visit www.elmhursthistory.org or call 630-833-1457.

Supporting DuPage Pads

During the run of the “House & Home” exhibit, Elmhurst History Museum is collecting much- needed items for DuPage Pads, an organization committed to ending homelessness in DuPage County by coupling housing with supportive services and employment. To support this cause, the museum is encouraging exhibit visitors to contribute the following household and personal items from their needs list:

New bath towels

Cleaning supplies (all purpose, dish soap, bleach)

Laundry detergent

Toilet paper

Paper towels

Hand sanitizer


Personal/travel size first aid kits

Rain ponchos

Durable backpacks

A collection box will be in the Elmhurst History Museum gift shop. For more information, go to www.dupagepads.org.