by sarah leavitt, curator

House & Home was one of the National Building Museum’s most popular exhibitions this year, attracting over 50,000 visitors! Of particular note, more families and children were attracted to the exhibition than ever before thanks to some new materials and signage designed to help them discover what’s so special about American domestic architecture and design.

Curators added objects from the Museum’s one-of-a-kind Architectural Toy Collection to the House & Home galleries, emphasizing the role of play in the foundation of how we think and learn about the idea of “home.” In the first gallery of the 7,000-sqaure-foot exhibition, visitors learn how toys such as a dollhouse and Lincoln Logs help differentiate our childhood understanding of the separate notions of house and home. New this year, we reiterate that idea in the final gallery with a display of toys that represent the idea of “community.”

Bringing the lessons together, several toys illustrate the ways in which children learn about what makes up a residential community. In Pretty Village, a 19th-century toy kit, a play mat delineates the spaces for school, church, and house. In Sky Rail, a mid-20th century futuristic play set, “community” translates into a sky-way monorail for a public transit system. These toys, from our own Architectural Toy Collection, help us learn about the themes of the exhibition—how do we create our own homes and communities, and how have the ways we have done so changed over time?

House & Home went on the road at the end of FY13 through a National Endowment for the Humanities program managed by the Mid-America Arts Alliance. The amended and condensed version of the traveling exhibition started its run in St. Bonaventure, New York, and will move to 24 more locations, from Utah to Michigan to New Mexico to Louisiana. This wonderful partnership gives people across the country the opportunity to learn from the themes of our exhibition and to continue the conversation about housing in America. Find out more about the tour here.



Number of visitors to House & Home last year


House&Home_Kevin Allen Photography


square feet of space in the epic House & Home exhibition



Images: Photos by Kevin Allen.