Student-created exhibition investigates intimate histories of five Geneseo houses

In a recent Bridge Gallery Exhibit, students with museum studies minors explored the different types of people who live behind the doors of houses some of us see every day in Geneseo. 

“Five Geneseo Houses: Living History in an American Landscape” was erected on Nov. 29 in the Brodie Hall Bridge Gallery. It presents an in-depth photographic journey through the histories of five houses in Geneseo. The exhibit exemplifies the living, personal and societal sides of history.

The photographs in the exhibit carefully blend historical memories with that of the personal lives of the homes’ inhabitants. The history of Geneseo was explored from the Wadsworth’s settling down to the women’s suffrage movement, to the Japanese internment camp Geneseo was once home to. 

The descriptions for each of the five homes explored were personal. Students involved in the project were able to interview the owners of the selected houses and learn more about both the buildings’ histories and about the lives of the current owners. 

The first house was the Bed & Breakfast at Temple Hill. The student interviewers reported on the house’s transition into a B&B and on the little pieces of its character like a Cold War fallout shelter, a Japanese teahouse and the unique staircase spindles. 

The second house at 26 Center Street delved into the effort Gretchen Crane and her family have taken to preserve the historical aspects of their home.

Fifty-six Second Street is an interesting case of an imposter house, designed to look historical despite its more recent construction, showing the dedication of its creators. Seventy-six Center Street encapsulates different moments in its history with an icebox, an octagonal room and the community poll that decided its colors to be yellow and orange. 

The fifth house, the Wadsworth Homestead, is the site of several, important historical moments from Geneseo’s history, and the home has the memorabilia to show for it. It’s also a look at how a single family has passed down the house through generations. 

This personal touch leaps off the pages of the students’ final review packet. You can see the shape of the lives within each home, and how the houses matter so deeply to the individuals living in them. 

The experience was truly special for the students involved from the way they spoke about the interviewing process. 

“It was absolutely wonderful,” early childhood education major sophomore Faith Blackburn said. “At first, you’re extremely nervous, like ‘oh my goodness I have to go and talk to these people and find out about their lives.’ It’s very intimate, but it was a very beautiful process. You really get to know these people and their stories.”

Another theme of the night was the diverse nature of the museum studies discipline. Some people might feel that a curator has to work only with pieces and people who have been dead for centuries, but this exhibit is a lively take on the work. Additionally, it shows how it can be important for a small town to understand the history and lives of its residents. 

Chair of the Department of Art History and professor of art history Lynette Bosch created the itinerary for the course. The museum studies minor is relatively new, and there is a learning curve as to what the department will turn it into. 

“This was an experimental course,” Bosch said. “I really wanted [to design it] so that the students would have control of where they went with their research.”

This control allowed the students to show their passion and drive to create something incredible, as they did with this wonderful exhibit, which will be on display until Feb. 1.u

 Students in the museum studies minor displayed an exhibit in the Brodie Bridge Gallery on Nov. 29 entitled “Five Geneseo Houses: Living History in an American Landscape.” The feature explored the history behind five houses in Geneseo as the students were able to interview the residents, and research more on the homes themselves. (Ellayna Fredericks/Assoc. Photo Editor)

Students in the museum studies minor displayed an exhibit in the Brodie Bridge Gallery on Nov. 29 entitled “Five Geneseo Houses: Living History in an American Landscape.” The feature explored the history behind five houses in Geneseo as the students were able to interview the residents, and research more on the homes themselves. (Ellayna Fredericks/Assoc. Photo Editor)