The Heurich House Museum Presents Working Title, a New Exhibit Examining Domestic Labor in DC at the Turn of the 20th Century

At the end of April, the Heurich House Museum will present its first new exhibit since 2018, which its education team developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working Title reframes the Heurich family home as a central juncture for the people who lived and worked there (1894-1956) - men and women, immigrant and natural-born, Black and white, rich and lower-income, examines how they interacted with each other every day, and questions why their histories have not always been given equal weight. 

To start, the public can view the exhibit during public tours and during public programs. Guests can enjoy a local craft beer in the museum’s biergarten, 1921, before or after viewing the tour. While exhibit entry is free, donations are appreciated. The museum plans to expand opportunities to visit the exhibit in the future. 

In March 2020, when the Heurich House Museum’s physical space closed - the museum’s education director, collections manager, and a team of over a dozen interns, fellows, and volunteers endeavored to transcribe 19 diaries, 2 ledger books, 14 oral histories, and dig through thousands of archival records which included photos, immigration records, newspaper articles, ads, census records, wartime draft cards, birth & death certificates, and obituaries to uncover the names of 146 historic household staff members - 144 more names than the museum had previously known. The team shared their discoveries along the way on social media as they reframed the museum's traditional narrative which centralized Christian Heurich as a “self-made” businessman.

Working Title asks its audience to critically question established narratives, interrogate how the gaps in historic memory are created, and actively uncover silences. The exhibit’s goal is to to encourage a more equitable and empathetic understanding of the past through its ongoing research of the historic household staff members who worked for the Heurich family, and Amelia Heurich, the household manager who was married to brewer & businessman, Christian Heurich. 

The exhibit design features blank and empty spaces where pieces of the story are missing, and sees the exhibit structure - both literally and figuratively - as a frame for conducting and presenting ongoing research. The museum hopes the launch of the exhibit will connect descendants of historic household staff to their relatives' stories and DC to its working class history at the turn of the 20th century.

In the coming months, the museum will host programming which will engage the public in discovering their own ancestral histories, question how they want to be remembered, and give an inside look into doing empathy-based historic research.

Working Title marks a new decade of the Heurich House Museum’s work to explore the American Experience with the goal of interpreting history more holistically and equitably while also connecting to the modern world. The museum will launch its first professional strategic plan this spring which will move this work forward as it refines its dual mission of public history education and public service.

Working Title was curated by museum Director of Education, Jenna Febrizio, PhD, and co-curated by Curator of Collections, Allison LaCroix Hayes. The exhibit was designed by Director of External Relations, Alex Fraioli, and fabricated by Director of Preservation, Daniel Rudie.

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