It is usually impossible to take this particular picture of the Best Bedchamber at the Hammond-Harwood House. Like most historical house museums, we use stanchions and ropes to keep our visitors at a distance from the objects in the rooms. By doing this, we hope to avoid any damage to the furniture or, even worse, theft of the smaller items. But the stanchions do affect the physical experience of the room; I hadn’t realized how much they close off the space until this week, when I removed them because Maryland Public Television was here filming for an episode of Chesapeake Collectibles. I have been struck by how different the room feels without them. It is more spacious, and I can get a much better sense of how people could actually have lived in the room.
So, now I have a dilemma: how do I give visitors to the House the same experience I’m having without the stanchions, while still adequately protecting our collection? I’ll be pondering it this winter, and am open to suggestion.