All houses have a story to tell. And one exceptional house is sharing its rich tapestry of stories spanning five families and 200 years through the “Within These Walls” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. This exhibition, exclusively sponsored by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), serves as a tangible symbol of the role NAR’s 1.3 million members play in making property ownership and the American Dream a reality for millions of Americans.
It’s only fitting that NAR is playing a key role in providing support to bring these stories of home and history to the public. The 1760s Georgian-style house from Ipswich, Mass., chronicles the story of one home and five families whose lives intersected with American history at different crossroads.
In the early 1960s, Ipswich citizens saved the two-and-a-half story, timber-framed house from demolition, and dismantled and reassembled it with care for this Smithsonian exhibition. The approximately 4,200-square-foot home is the single largest artifact in the museum’s collection. Visitors can peer through the home’s walls, windows and doors to view activities of the occupants, fixtures and furnishings from different eras, while learning the real-life stories of five families who inhabited the house from the colonial era through World War II.
One House, Five Families
While none of the house’s inhabitants were famous, their stories reflect the challenges and choices that shaped both their community and the nation. American colonists created a new, genteel lifestyle, patriots stood for their freedoms in a revolution, and an enslaved young man considered what liberty would mean for him. The home also served as a gathering place for neighbors to come together to end slavery, while immigrants earned a livelihood in their new home, and a woman and her grandson contributed to the war effort during World War II with their victory garden. These are the true stories this house tells and what continues to make this one of the most popular exhibits at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The house structure, along with displays about the families that lived there, provide poignant reminders that each era presents challenges to overcome and achievements to celebrate.
NAR’s Sponsorship and Exhibit Upgrades
While NAR has sponsored the exhibition since 2001, on September 1, the Association became the exclusive sponsor of the exhibit through 2030. To keep the exhibition compelling over the next 12 years, significant renovations were made to the “Within These Walls” exhibition.
New technologies and theatrical overlays were recently integrated, which serve to enliven the visitor experience with the impact of music, sound and light treatments. These upgrades create an even more compelling exhibition experience. In addition to the theatrical integrations, the exhibition website at americanhistory.si.edu/within-these-walls was updated, and content translations in eight languages are now delivered via mobile devices. Both elevate the value of this exhibition and the REALTOR® brand to a global stage, enabling visitors from around the world to explore the important ways ordinary people, in their daily home lives, have been part of great changes and events in American history.
Additionally, new displays were recently added, including a new artifact display case. This display is the first in a series of new house-and-home topics. In 2018, the display supports NAR’s yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and showcases a pen used by President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Act.
As the United States continues to evolve, “Within These Walls” is well positioned through 2030 to share its stories with millions of visitors annually. This popular exhibition is an important reminder that “history happens at home,” thanks to the crucial role REALTORS® play in achieving the American Dream of homeownership. Learn more at NAR.realtor/articles/within-these-walls-exhibition.
Matt Lombardi is senior vice president, Marketing, Communications & Events for the National Association of REALTORS®.
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