Drama in the Campbell House

1 May

by Gemma Tennyson-

The Campbell House is a great house museum in St. Louis. It was built in the 1850s and occupied until 1938. During this long period of occupation there was little changed in interior decoration. They were able to restore much of the inside decoration to make it look as it did in the 1880s. The Campbell House museum was able to keep most of the original furnishings from the home.

The museum also found photographs of many of the rooms in the house from the 1880s in the archival material left by the Campbell family. This allowed them to set up the house in a historically accurate way. They also have hand-held photo boards for visitors to compare the present to the 1880s pictures. The house is set up as historically correct as the archival material has allowed. There are only a few upgrades for the museum to function.

This historic house also provides a new type of historical reenactment. The museum offers historical theatrical productions. The museum works with a local theater company, Senior Theatre Company, to produce a historical themed script from the archival material from the Campbell family. The script tells the story of different issues through the Campbell family, especially stories involving conflict in St. Louis surrounding the Civil War. The actors also do fashion research so the costumes are accurate with the time they are portraying. The actors use the house museum’s artifacts and living spaces as a stage while spectators stand in the viewing area.

We have talked a lot about reenactment in the class. This is a little different from the typical reenactment. I haven’t seen this show yet but I think of it like a historical drama. How can this be a help to public history? I think that it can draw in a different type of visitor to the museum. I also believe that by doing all the research to make the show accurate that it provides a good glimpse into the past for many visitors. Could this be the new theme in house museums?

Click here for information about the next show.

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