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Learning Through Places
Women’s History: Hill-Stead Museum
This lesson plan introduces the concept of how historic houses and house museums can tell the story of individuals who are significant in American history. Historic houses can also represent high artistic design values or traditional building practices. The lesson plan features Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut.
Recommended Student Reading
Where I Live: Connecticut, chapter 5 Notable Connecticans, pages 37 – 44
You may also like to have students read all or parts of Let’s Create: Arts & Culture, page 65, and Let’s Learn: Museums, pages 66 – 67 and “Hill-Stead’s Mastodon Discovery”.
Recommended Teacher Reading
See Additional Resources below. These will provide you with the background information you’ll need for this lesson plan.
Components of the Lesson Plan
- Connections to the state’s social studies frameworks
- Classroom discussion guide and additional resources. At the end of the lesson plan, your students should be able to engage in a discussion about why house museums are important because they help tell the stories of individuals who are significant in Connecticut and American history and they help preserve that history. Students should be able to discuss Theodate Pope Riddle’s success in architecture as an early female architect.
- Lesson Plan: Women’s History: Hill-Stead Museum
House Museums and Preserving History with Historic Places that Tell Stories of Significant People in Connecticut History
Begin with an in-class discussion about how we learn history from historic places like historic house museums, and the story of Theodate Pope Riddle, pioneering female architect and her home that is now Hill-Stead Museum.
Here are some questions to help guide the discussion.
- What places reflect our history and identity? Our homes, our neighborhoods, our town, our houses of worship.
- How do we learn our history? We talk to our family members about their lives and what they remember, we look at photographs, and we learn family traditions like holiday celebrations. We can also go to a museum to see a collection of objects and images that share history.
- What is a house museum? A house museum is a house that has been transformed into a museum. A house museum usually tells the story of an important person like a president, artist, general, or writer. The very first house museum in the United States was Mount Vernon, the home of the first president of the United States, George Washington, in Virginia.
- What are some famous house museums in Connecticut? Have you ever visited one? Perhaps the house museum in Connecticut of the most famous people are the Mark Twain Houseandthe Harriet Beecher Stowe Centerin Hartford. Houses museums related to our two state heroes are: the Nathan Hale Homesteadin Coventry and the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury.
- Is the historical society in your town located in a historic house? (This might be a good inquiry project)
- Can a house museum also be a beautiful building?Many house museums are also the work of talented designers and builders.
- Is architecture art? Can a building be a piece of art like a painting or a piece of music? Yes, beautiful design, craftsmanship and building materials are part of the reason that architecture is also an art form. Buildings can be works of art.
- What does an architect do? An architect is a person who designs buildings and, in many cases supervises their construction.
- Do you think that there were very many women architects 100 years ago? Why or why not?
Link to Student Materials
Distribute the For Students – Women’s History: Hill-Stead Museum materials or have them link to it (You’ll find a link to a printer-friendly PDF there). Have your students look closely at the first image and answer the questions provided. Some prompts are provided below.
What do you see in the photograph?
What kind of place is this?
Is it a large or small building?
Does is look like it’s in a large city or in the country?
Does is look like one family or more than one family could live there?
Have them read the story and choose an activity to learn more about the concepts discussed in the lesson.
State Frameworks Connections
Change, Continuity, and Context
HIST 3.3 Investigate historical Connecticut residents and their impact on Connecticut and national history.
Historical Sources and Evidence
HIST 3.10 Use information about a historical source, including the maker, date, place of origin, intended audience, and purpose to judge the extent to which the source is useful for studying a particular topic.
Hill-Stead Museum is located at 35 Mountain Road, Farmington, Connecticut.
It is a designated National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior.
Nomination, National Historic Landmark, David F. Ransom, 1990.
The nomination is found here:
Hill-Stead’s Wikipedia page
Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, Women’s Heritage Trail
Historic House Museums in Connecticut
Theodate Pope Riddle
Recommended: Pioneering Women in Architecture, scroll down to essay below stats
Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame
The Collection of Alfred Pope at Hill-Stead Museum
Lunch with Monet (art collection at Hill-Stead)
Mastodon Discovery in Farmington (found on the Hill-Stead Museum grounds)
Golf at Hill-Stead
Beatrix Farrand’s Connecticut Gardens (includes Hill-Stead Museum)
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