Week 2: Sewall-Belmont House


Museum Mission: The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum is committed to sharing the untold stories of women’s history. The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, celebrates women’s progress toward equality—and explores the evolving role of women and their contributions to society—through educational programs, tours, exhibits, research and publications.

One thing about visiting a lot of museums: something in each new museum reminds you of something in another museum you’ve already visited.

I mentioned last week that an exhibit on airmail at the College Park Aviation Museum reminded me of my internship and contract work at the National Postal Museum. Yesterday, at the Sewall-Belmont House, I saw a panel about the Portrait Monument that I had seen in person so many times while working at the U.S. Capitol. And of course, this statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott in turn reminded me of my Heroes on Stamps programming at NPM, in which Stanton was one of the hero choices.

Portrait Monument

Picture of the Portrait Monument (This looks familiar for some reason...)

After blogging a few times about museums that show female figures representing ideals and virtues (as opposed to female figures representing actual historical figures who happened to be female), I would be remiss not to pay attention to that theme at SBH. At SBH, I learned that suffragists marching along Pennsylvania Avenue in DC put together extravagant parades and pageants, featuring women and children dressed to symbolize “ideals such as Liberty, Justice, and Peace.” Years later, some of the women leading and dressing up in these parades would be immortalized in statues and busts lining the hallways of SBH. In this case, women chose to depict themselves as the ideals they ultimately fought for – but sculptors chose to honor the women themselves.

I had some fun with photography in this museum (which allows visitors to use their cameras as long as the flash is off). I especially enjoyed experimenting with reflections and light sources in the hallways by pointing my camera at various interesting angles.

Sewall-Belmont House, first floor hallway

Sewall-Belmont House, first floor hallway

Sewall-Belmont House, second floor hallway

Sewall-Belmont House, second floor hallway

For me, walking through Sewall-Belmont House, on my own and at my own pace, was a chance to learn more about a content area I find interesting, view exhibits that remind me of other museum exhibits I’ve seen, and practice one of my favorite hobbies. The ease with which I can visit and enjoy a museum is, in essence, museum literacy. It’s something to keep in mind as I write this blog: every museum experience will be colored by the fact that I’m visiting museums at least once a week, rather than, say, once a year.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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