Museum mission: The mission of the Virginia Trust for Historic Preservation is to promote historic preservation and education by preserving, rehabilitating, maintaining, and interpreting the Lee-Fendall House Museum, gardens, and collection, thus serving as a community resource for the city of Alexandria.
I visited Lee-Fendall House on a Sunday afternoon, after attending my congregation’s love-themed platform service (held annually in honor of Valentine’s Day). We congregants were invited to “be a valentine to the world.”
The previous day, LFH had held a Victorian valentine making event for kids, and supplies were still sitting out for any Sunday visitors who were interested in participating. Some of the valentines will be sent to veterans. As someone who is observing Valentine’s Day this year by volunteering at two service events (fighting tumors in children and AIDS in teenagers), I was glad to see this museum also use Valentine’s Day as an occasion of love and service to the world.
On the guided tour of the house, we learned about the various personalities who lived there: Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee and members of the Lee family, a series of other families, labor leader John L. Lewis. I had not known the whole succession of house ownership beforehand, but I had read that the museum has a collection of squirrel-related items. I suppose my squirrel-loving professional/hobbyist identity was enacted. The tour guide (director of the museum) explained that the squirrel is part of the Lee family crest, symbolizing the idea of always preparing for the future. In addition to the crest, the museum displays modern squirrel figurines throughout the house, giving young visitors the challenge of finding a squirrel in every room. (I was able to find one in almost every room.)
The couple on the tour with me had a specific professional reason for visiting: one member of the couple works in making homes accessible and needed an old bathtub. She and the guide were still chatting about bathtubs when I left.
Valentine-making projects at museums make me wonder, can someone visit a museum alone and still be a facilitator? What if I visit a museum by myself and make or buy a gift for a loved one? Or what if I see an object and think, ____ would love this, I must take a picture of it? I cannot speak for how John Falk would classify this motivation, but I definitely think it’s worthwhile for museums to consider not only the social interactions that physically take place onsite, but also the souvenirs and stories that visitors share with families and friends after the fact – to say nothing of the possibilities for interaction surrounding a museum’s online presence.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
February’s blog theme is Visitor Motivations.