Ted Maust, M.A. Student, Temple University

Proposal Type


  • Seeking Additional Presenters
  • Seeking General Feedback and Interest
Related Topics
  • Material Culture
  • Museums/Exhibits
  • Preservation

The Chamounix Mansion in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA, has been a youth hostel since 1964. In 1967, the women’s committee undertook the project of decorating much of the ground floor in period furnishings. Though Chamounix has long been unrecognized as a historic house museum, its balance of usage and preservation is a useful case study for historic house museums.

Chamounix contains the historical power of aged fabric and immersive reconstruction familiar at house museums, but adds authenticity based on ongoing use; the kitchen is still used to prepare meals and the bedrooms are still slept in.


Historic house museums must constantly weigh providing access to visitors with preserving the fabric of their historical assets. In a changing economy in which these houses increasingly turn to site rentals as a means of financial support, these decisions have become more difficult. With the case study of Chamounix Mansion, I hope to contribute to the discussion of strategies which house museums and other historic sites can employ to navigate dilemmas of preservation and use.

If this panel comes to fruition, my hope is that it will include several examples of preservation strategies at historic sites in use. This can be interpreted to include individual case studies of one policy, deliberations on whether to close a site, or more general studies of usage at historic sites. I hope that varied presentations will facilitate a broader conversation in the Q&A.

As a novice in the field I also seek advice as well as panelists. What am I missing? How might I approach these questions differently? Who has already discussed these issues?

If you have a direct offer of assistance, sensitive criticism, or wish to pass along someone’s contact information confidentially, please get in contact directly: Ted Maust, [email protected]

If you have general ideas or feedback to share, please feel free to use the comments feature below.

All feedback and offers of assistance should be submitted by July 2, 2017.


  1. Mark Speltz says:

    Hi Ted,

    As a former board member of small, local historical society operating out of a historic home, I appreciate this panel idea. It’s been 8-10 years since I was tuned into these issues, but I remember AASLH had some panels, a leaflet, and the most recent book was New Solutions for Historic House Museums. I suspect you have seen it, but wanted to mention it just in case.

    I am curious about Chamounix and will be interested in hearing what you uncover. An organization is only as strong as it’s mission–if that includes education, appreciation of historic structures and settings, and balancing preservation and use, then it will offer hope to smaller orgs that are seeking creative solutions.

    Good luck,

  2. Hello Ted, Looking forward to learning more about a unique combination of uses! I certainly see overlaps with some of the ideas in Frank Vagnone’s and Deb Ryan’s Anarchists’ Guide to Historic House Museums. If you haven’t had a look through that, I think it would really help inform your panel and contextualize it with other recent initiatives to think about “authenticity” and usage in new ways. There are also interesting parallels here to the use of historic properties as AirBnB (and similar) rentals at places like Mystic Seaport and the C & O Canal. Good luck!

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