Furnishing Hampton: Development of Historic Furnishings Reports at Hampton National Historic Site

This fall, NMSC’s former Senior Curator Laurel Racine accepted a new position as Chief of Cultural Resources at Lowell National Historical Park (LOWE).  Although we miss her terribly, we are excited about this new opportunity for Laurel and look forward to hearing about all of the great things she’s doing at LOWE! 

Laurel Racine, Chief of Cultural Resources at Lowell National Historical Park, teaching young visitors from New Bedford about collections management at LOWE.

Laurel Racine, Chief of Cultural Resources at Lowell National Historical Park (LOWE), teaching young visitors from New Bedford about collections management at LOWE.

While here at NMSC, Laurel worked with parks to develop Historic Furnishings Reports (HFRs).  She wrote the following blog post about the HFRs currently in development at Hampton National Historic Site (HAMP).

[The following post written by Laurel Racine]

New research is underway at Hampton National Historic Site (HAMP)!  NMSC has hired contractors Hardy-Heck-Moore and Volz O’Connell Hutson Architects from Austin, TX, to research and write Historic Furnishings Reports for the children’s bedchamber, guest bedchamber, kitchen, great hall, and stair halls.  A Historic Furnishings Report (HFR) includes the history of a structure’s use and documents the type and placement of furnishings to accurately portray a period of significance.   

To date Hampton has HFRs for the Master Bedchamber (1993), Dining Room (1994), Music Room (1994), Drawing Room (2006),  and Parlour (draft HFR 2009, 2015).  The current project will complete the documentation of all rooms open to the public, including two bedchambers, kitchen and halls.  Over 95 percent of the furnishings on display in Hampton’s period rooms are original to the house and Ridgely family. The historically accurate interiors are recreated through the generous support of Historic Hampton, Inc. (HHI), the site’s primary partner. HHI raises private funds to underwrite reproduction of curtains, upholstery, carpets, and wallpapers as well as funding object conservation.

Interior of Hampton National Historic Site.

Interior of Hampton National Historic Site.

Established in 1948 for its architectural merit, Hampton NHS is one of America’s best-preserved estates and includes Hampton Mansion; numerous outbuildings; a farm site with elaborate dairy, barns, and standing slave quarters; and formal terraced gardens and other significant landscape features.  It is a 63-acre remnant of a 24,000-acre industrial and agricultural estate amassed and stewarded by seven generations of the Ridgely family during more than 200 years of America’s development as a nation, from before the Revolutionary War until after World War II.  The centerpiece of the park is the 24,000 square foot Hampton Mansion, constructed 1783-1790.  This five-part Georgian house was one of the largest in this country when completed.  Hampton is located in Towson, Maryland, about 13 miles north of downtown Baltimore.

Hampton National Historic Site

Hampton National Historic Site

The sheer volume of objects and documentary evidence available to inform Hampton’s HFRs makes it challenging to read, analyze, and synthesize so much good information.  In addition to its 45,000 extant collection items, Hampton’s history is documented in the copious archival holdings at the park, the manuscript collections of the Maryland Historical Society, and the Maryland State Archives.  These fascinating records include diaries, cookbooks, photographs, account books, bills, receipts, inventories, and correspondence.   A historic Furnishings Report concentrates  these resources in one place to assist the park in managing its furnished exhibits and museum collection.  A significant draft of the current project was submitted earlier this year, so we look forward to reporting some findings in the near future.

In the meantime, you can experience Hampton Mansion on-line as a virtual museum exhibit and in interior street views and an object gallery available through Google Cultural Institute.

Screen shot from HAMP's virtual museum exhibit.

Screen shot from HAMP’s virtual museum exhibit.

Screen shot from Google Cultural Institute.

Screen shot from Google Cultural Institute.

 

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About JessicaC

Jessica is a Museum Specialist in the Archeology Program at the Northeast Museum Services Center/National Park Service. She majored in history as an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and has a master's degree in historical archeology from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. She is particularly interested in 18th and 19th century American history and material culture.
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