House (Museum) Hunters: Tudor Place

By Kai Walther, Program & Operations Manager

One of my favorite things recently has been visiting other house museums. For professional development each month, I tour a historic house in the DMV and reflect on the institution’s strengths, weaknesses, and other takeaways that I can integrate into my own work at the Heurich House

I arrived at Tudor Place just before 10am on March 10th. While waiting for other tour visitors, I started a conversation with the volunteer docent and was somewhat surprised to learn that most tours are led by volunteers. Why did Tudor Place make that decision? What are the benefits and drawbacks? Who is able and willing to volunteer? 

No one else had shown up by the time we were supposed to begin. I got a private tour! Because the docent knew that I worked at the Heurich House, she spent extra time in each space, providing more information about object provenance and tour source material. While in the space, I quickly noticed the sheer amount of portraits on the walls. Each person represented was deemed relevant to the house in some way, and the guide used their portraits as segues to talk about them and their connection to Tudor Place. There was also one photo of an enslaved person who worked in the house. The guide mentioned some others by name and acknowledged the history of slavery at Tudor Place. I wonder when that was added to the tour, or if it has always been part of the conversation. It appears that Tudor Place is aware of the much needed movement to address “difficult” histories at house museums, and I look forward to them continuing and growing in their efforts to confront historical complexities.

The tour covered a variety of people and periods related to Tudor Place, which was new for me to see in a house museum. The Heurich house was home to just one generation, and the museum’s objects and furniture can all generally be traced to a specific use or member of the family. Tudor Place, however, was home to the Peter family from the early 1800s to 1983. Rooms in the house are set up to reflect different moments in the house’s history, and objects within each room sometimes correspond to two or three different periods. While touring the museum, I sometimes found myself caught up trying to remember a timeline or figure out which objects belong to which iteration of the space. That being said, I recognize the challenge of representing nearly two centuries in a single building. 

House museums can often feel stagnant, and Tudor Place’s inclusion of multiple generations and uses of the house help show that history has not “stopped” since it became a museum instead of a home. 

The tour’s focus on human stories is one of its greatest strengths, as is the enthusiasm and expertise of the museum’s tour guides. For those interested in upper-class lifestyles of the early republic, as well as material culture or domestic history, I recommend visiting Tudor Place.

All tours are free and take place 10am - 3pm on Tuesdays through Saturdays.

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