Hull of a House

A room worth a view!

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Lucy here. I’m the Hull-House Museum’s summer intern, here through funding from Smith College. Lisa Junkin gave me the special task of creating an entry for the famous Hull-House blog on whatever my heart desires! I figured I would report on developments in the room I’ve spent the most time in–the new library area.

The museum is looking so incredible these days, it makes me wish I weren’t going home before the September opening. Although I never saw the old exhibit in place, on my first day Lisa Lee took me on a quick tour of the mansion. This was after only one of the rooms had been painted and absolutely nothing of the new exhibition was in place.

At the end, we stopped by a room on the first floor, once a dining room for residents. When I think about that room I saw on my first day, I think ugly curtains hiding otherwise beautiful bottle-glass windows, I think peeling wall paper, I think, ugh!

But nowadays, our library area couldn’t be more incredible.

Glorious, historically accurate terracotta paint! Exquisite furnishings! Spectacular artwork! A couple of exhibits completed by a certain lucky intern!

It’s no surprise that I chose this room in particular to write about. For one thing, a lot of essential elements of the exhibit are in place, so it’s easy to imagine how it will look. But also, this is where two of my main projects of the summer will live. One is a globe that demonstrates Jane Addams’ world travels. Did you know that Addams went to Europe nine times throughout her life in addition to traveling to Egypt, India, The Philippines, Mexico, China, and Japan?

The other exhibit I’ve been working on is called the bookshelf project. It’s pretty neat—one shelf will display books from Addams’ personal collection (those will be behind glass). The other shelves will be filled with about 45 books that are written by reformers, residents, and other figures with a connection to Hull-House. I loved researching for this exhibit. I learned about John Dewey and pragmatism, the Pullman Strike, WILPF, suffrage, and much, much more.

Jane Addams' signature from a book she owned

For each book, I composed a bookmark that points out interesting pages or passages, gives background information, and explains the book’s connection to Hull-House.Visitors will be able to pick these books off the shelves, (hopefully read the informative bookmark!) and flip through the pages to get an idea of the wide array of subjects connected to Hull-House and Addams.

Reading was central to Addams. Not only was she the author of many books and speeches, she knew that books had the power to inspire and change. In my research for the exhibit I came across an anecdote from Louise deKoven Bowen about Jane Addams’ dedication to reading. When Addams was notified that the ambulance was late to take her to the last operation she had before she died she replied, “That’s all right, for that will give me time to finish the book I am reading.”

All of the formatting is done and now we just need to print them out and put them in their books. Many of the furnishings are in place, and the art work (all completed by artists connected to Hull-House) is up on the walls. Very exciting stuff!

As today is my last day, I know I’ll be spending more time in this room figuring out finishing touches for the bookshelf. I hope I’ll have a chance to sit in the rocking chair and take in the space one more time. More importantly, I hope that in a few weeks visitors will stop by this room to reflect and discuss, examine and read.

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