House & Home

What makes a house a home?

Throughout American history, people have lived in all sorts of places, from military barracks and two-story colonials to college dormitories and row houses. Drawn from the flagship installation at the National Building Museum, House & Home embarks on a tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, to explore the varied history, and many cultural meanings of the American home.

The NEH on the Road version of House & Home draws on themes originated by the National Building Museum to encourage visitors to explore how our ideal of the perfect house and our experience of what it means to “be at home” have changed over time. The exhibition includes domestic furnishings and home construction materials, photographs, “please touch” interactive components, and films. Together, the objects and images illustrate how transformations in technology, government policy, and consumer culture have impacted American domestic life.

House & Home presents an overview of architecture styles and living patterns that have been featured in American homes over the years. Quotes, toys, and other graphic advertising materials prompt visitors to think about the different ideas embodied in the words “house” and “home.” The exhibition also showcases domestic objects–from cooking utensils to telephones–and traces how household goods tell the stories of our family traditions, heritage, and the activity of daily living.

Another key section of House & Home explores how different laws, historic trends, and economic factors have impacted housing in America. The American Dream, once more generally seen as an aspiration to prosperity, grew in the 20th Century to be synonymous with home ownership. Visitors learn about the economy of housing and how homes have been promoted and sold. Issues of housing inequality, land distribution, and the role of the government are examined, from the Colonial period though the Homestead Act and the creation of the Federal Housing Administration in the 1930s; and from the Oklahoma Land Rush to the subprime loan crisis. Related sections of House & Home looks outward, exploring the relationship of the individual house to the larger society by presenting examples of contemporary community development through film.

Video and film features immerse audiences in a nationwide tour of residential buildings and community developments that reflect contemporary trends. From futuristic dormitories to post-Katrina communities built on shared interests in music, the images evoke the experience of residential space and illustrate the evolution and diversity of American domestic architecture, design, and community. In its scope, content, and presentation, House & Home moves beyond the bricks and mortar to challenge our ideas about what it means to be at home in America.

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This exhibition is fully booked. To inquire about a waiting list, e-mail Client Relations at MoreArt (at), or call (800) 473-3872, ext. 208.

  • Sept. 1–Oct. 20, 2013 Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts
    St. Bonaventure, NY
  • Nov. 10, 2013–Jan. 7, 2014 Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College
    Bel Air, MD
  • Jan. 28–March 16, 2014 University of Mississippi Museum
    University, MS
  • April 6–May 25, 2014 Main Street Beatrice
    Beatrice, NE
  • June 16–Aug. 11, 2014 Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum
    Wichita, KS
  • Sept. 1–Oct. 20, 2014 William F. Laman Public Library
    North Little Rock, AR
  • Nov. 10, 2014–Jan. 7, 2015 Historical & Cultural Society of Clay County
    Moorhead, MN
  • Jan. 28–March 16, 2015 Mercer Museum/Bucks County Historical Society
    Doylestown, PA
  • April 6–May 25, 2015 Branigan Cultural Center
    Las Cruces, NM
  • June 16–Aug. 11, 2015 Living History Farms
    Urbandale, IA
  • Sept. 1–Oct. 20, 2015 West Baton Rouge Museum
    West Baton Rouge, LA
  • Nov. 10, 2015–Jan. 07, 2016 Bell County Museum
    Belton, TX
  • Jan. 28–March 16, 2016 Refurbishment
    Kansas City, MO
  • April 6–May 25, 2016 Brown County Historical Society
    Hiawatha, KS
  • June 16–Aug. 11, 2016 Park City Museum
    Park City, UT
  • Sept. 1–Oct. 20, 2016 William D. Cannon Art Gallery
    Carlsbad, CA
  • Nov. 10, 2016–Jan. 07, 2017 Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center
    Townsend, TN
  • Jan. 28–March 16, 2017 Provo City Library at Academy Square
    Provo, UT
  • April 6–May 25, 2017 Elmhurst Historical Museum
    Elmhurst, IL
  • June 16–Aug. 11, 2017 Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History
    Bryan, TX
  • Sept. 1–Oct. 20, 2017 Gadsden Museum of Fine Arts
    Gadsden, AL
  • Nov. 10, 2017–March 14, 2018 State Historical Society of North Dakota
    Bismarck, ND
  • April 6–May 25, 2018 Ypsilanti District Library
    Ypsilanti, MI
  • June 16, 2018–Aug. 11, 2018 Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts
    Florence, AL

Exhibition Details & Specifications

  • Curated By

    Sarah Levitt, Curator, The National Building Museum

  • Organized By

    The National Building Museum, Washington, DC, in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance
  • Content

    The exhibition includes freestanding display units focused on thematic areas; large-scale immersive components with interactive stations; artifacts including domestic objects, construction materials, toys, and other examples of pop culture; “please touch” components; multiple video features; and additional freestanding and wall-mounted banners and quote graphics.

  • Duration

    7-week display

  • Rental Fee


  • Support

  • Shipping:


  • Security


  • Square Feet


  • Number of Crates/Total Weight

    19 crates and 1 tub/7,013 pounds

  • Insurance

    The exhibition is fully insured by NEH on the Road at no additional expense to you, both while installed and during transit.



To download this glossary, click here.

adobe: a natural building material made from sand and clay and water held together by sticks, straw or manure, which is shaped into bricks using frames and dried in the sun. Adobe structures are extremely durable and account for some of the oldest existing buildings in the world.

Related Terms
latillas: small branches used as ceiling planking, made of Aspen, pine or cedar.
lintel: wooden beam bridging window or door openings.
nicho: small shelf carved into a wall.
stucco: final cement color coat plastered in the exterior of an adobe-style building.
vigas: round logs used as ceiling beams, either shaved or raw.
corbel: short sculpted beam lying on top of a post or wall.
canale: a roof spout that carries water off a flat pueblo roof.

green building: also known as green construction or sustainable building refers to a building’s structure and building process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle.

Related Terms
daylighting: this refers to the use of natural light to provide light in a building, through the use of windows, a sun roof, and orientation of the building/house for optimal sun saturation
grey water: this is the wastewater from sources such as dishwashing or washing machines, and can be used for subsurface irrigation, or if treated, for non-potable purposes, like flushing toilets and washing cars. Rainwater collectors are used for similar purposes. Sustainable homes often have systems in place to use/recycle water in this way.
deconstruction: is a method of harvesting what is commonly considered “waste” in old construction and reclaiming it into useful building material.
VOCs: or volatile organic compounds, refer to the toxins that are present in many interior finish products like linoleum floors, paints, stains, wall papers, carpets, and other materials used to finish the interior of a house. These gases can have a detrimental impact on occupants’ health, comfort, and productivity. A green building/house would use construction materials with low or no VOCs emissions and would use ventilation systems that would improve the indoor air quality through filtration and ventilation.

post-and-girt architecture: (Also known as post-and-beam) Post-and-beam framing is a traditional system of wood-frame construction, in common use into the 19th century, in which the skeleton of the house is formed from heavy posts (vertical members) and beams (horizontal members). Because suitable metal fasteners were not available, early post-and-beam frames were held together by mortise-and-tenon joints chiseled out of the ends of the massive structural members. Failure of these joints is generally what brings down an old post-and-beam structure. Today, much stronger post-and-beam frames can be built using various types of nailed or bolted metal connectors.

Related Terms
bay: section of a framed building between principal supporting posts.
bent: post and plate, or post and girt assembly. Posts are mortised into the plate or end girt making a U-shaped section of the house frame.
collar beam: horizontal timber connecting principal rafters below their apex and above their base.
girt: a main horizontal timber placed between the wall plate at the top and the sill at the bottom.
joist: one of a number of horizontal timbers supporting a floor or carrying a ceiling.
lath: narrow timber (1 to 2 inches in width) used in a partition as a base for plaster, or on rafters to support the roof covering.
plate: horizontal timber on top of the wall frame, supporting the rafters.
post: strong vertical timber that is part of the main framework of a building.
purlin: horizontal timber that ties together the principal rafters and supports the common ones.
rafter: timber set at an angle, and that support laths under the roof covering
sill: the bottommost horizontal timber resting on the footings or the ground into which the posts are mortised; wooden horizontal base of a window or door frame.
stud: smaller vertical timbers set between posts in the framework of the building

Wampanoag wetu: the mat-covered wetu, the Wampanoag word for house, was a round or
oval house that was designed to be easily dismantled and moved in just a few hours. They were
made out of sticks of red cedar and grass. They are also known as birch bark houses
orwigwams. Thesesmall houses were usually 8-10 feet tall. Wigwams are made of wooden
frames which are covered with woven mats and sheets of birch bark. The frame can be shaped
like a dome, like a cone, or like a rectangle with an arched roof. Once the birch bark is in place,
ropes or strips of wood are wrapped around the wigwam to hold the bark in place.

balloon framing: Balloon framing is a system of wood-frame construction, first used in the 19th century, in which the studs are continuous from the foundation sill to the top wall plate. Floor structures (one, two, or more) are hung from the studs. Balloon framing, which replaced postand- beam construction, was made possible by the availability of structural lumber sawed to uniform sizes. A balloon frame, which is held together entirely by nails, could be erected faster than a post-and-beam frame, with the use of less-skilled labor; and the end result was stronger and more apt to be square and plumb. Balloon frames have one serious drawback: unless fire stops are installed at the level of every floor, the stud spaces form what are essentially chimneys from cellar to attic, greatly accelerating the spread of fire.

studs: long, vertical 2″ x 4″s for the exterior walls. These long “studs” extend uninterrupted, from the sill on top of the foundation, all the way up to the roof.

sill: (1) In a wood-frame house, the sill is a wooden member that rests on top of the foundation (and, per today’s building codes, is anchored to it by bolts). In post-and-beam construction, the bottom ends of posts rest on the sill; in a balloon frame, the bottom ends of studs and the ends of floor joists; in a platform frame, the ends of floor joists only. (2) The fixed horizontal member of a window frame, below the sash, is also called a sill.

clapboard: Clapboards are thin, narrow boards of tapering cross-section applied horizontally as siding on wood-frame houses. Each clapboard overlaps the one below, so that no joints are exposed to the weather. Aluminum and vinyl siding in use today typically imitate clapboards.

dormer: A dormer is a window housed in a gable or similar structure affixed to the sloping part of a roof, providing natural light and ventilation to the rooms beneath the roof. Since such attic or garret rooms have traditionally been used for sleeping, the dormer gets its name from the French verb dormer: to sleep.

platform framing: Platform framing has been the most common system of wood-frame house construction since the middle of the 20th century. In platform framing, the first structure built on top of the foundation is the first floor. The builders then use this floor as a platform on which to fabricate the first tier of stud walls. These are then erected and the next floor platform built on top of them, and so on, until finally the roof joists and rafters are put in place atop the final tier of walls. Advantages of this system over the earlier balloon-framing system are: smaller and cheaper pieces of lumber can be used in the walls; there is always something solid on which to stand while erecting the next higher part of the building; the walls can be fabricated down on the platform, which increases safety and reduces labor cost; and no added fire-stopping is necessary because each floor platform encloses the stud spaces above and below.

stud: In balloon-framing and platform-framing systems of wood construction, studs are the vertical structural members in the walls. The studs transmit vertical forces (loads) from the roof and/or floor above to, ultimately, the foundation of the house. The studs also provide something to which to attach the exterior wall sheathing and interior wall finish (e.g., lath and plaster or sheetrock).

rafter: Rafters are the structural members that support the roof sheathing to which the outer covering of the roof (shingles, etc.) is attached. Typically, rafters slope down from a central ridge or peak to the top plates of either two (gable roof) or all four (hip roof) of the exterior walls. When the lower ends of the rafters project beyond the exterior walls, they form the roof overhang, or eaves.

gable roof: A roof in which two opposite sides are supported by sloping rafters, the walls of the other two sides being extended upward in an inverted-V shape conforming to the slope of the rafters, is known as a gable roof. The majority of American houses have gable roofs.
tenement: The term “tenement” originally referred to tenancy and therefore to any rented accommodation. The New York State legislature defined it in the Tenement House Act of 1867 in terms of rental occupancy by multiple households, as: Any house, building, or portion thereof, which is rented, leased, let, or hired out to be occupied or is occupied, as the home or residence of more than three families living independently of one another and doing their own cooking upon the premises, or by more than two families upon a floor, so living and cooking and having a common right in the halls, stairways, yards, waterclosets, or privies, or some of them.
sod house: or “soddy” was a corollary to the log cabin during frontier settlement of Canada and the United States. The prairie lacked standard building materials such as wood or stone; however, sod from thickly-rooted prairie grass was abundant. Construction of a sod house involved cutting patches of sod in rectangles, often 2’×1’×6″ (600×300×150 mm) long, and piling them into walls. Builders employed a variety of roofing methods. Sod houses accommodate normal doors and windows. The resulting structure was a well-insulated but damp dwelling that was very inexpensive. Sod houses required frequent maintenance and were vulnerable to rain damage. Stucco or wood panels often protected the outer walls. Canvas or plaster often lined the interior walls.

Museum Activities

Download these activities here.

Activity One: {HOME} Keeping Objects, Keeping Connections

Age Appropriateness: All ages, ideal for families and multi-generational groups
Time Needed: 1–2 hours, depending on number of participants


During this activity, visitors will have the opportunity to tell the stories behind the treasured objects from their own homes. In this case, visitors will bring in family heirloom objects. You will need to engage in some pre-exhibit program planning and promotion for this activity through your website or a mailer, so that visitors can have adequate time to secure heirloom objects and the stories accompanying them. You may wish to require pre-registration for this activity as well.

Required Materials

  • Patricia Polocco’s book The Keeping Quilt (travels with exhibit Educational Material)
  • Digital camera
  • Quilt or another heirloom quality object from your collection
  • Guest conservationist (optional

Program Directions

  1. Ask visitors, “What is an heirloom?” An heirloom is a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations. If possible, display/present an heirloom from your own collection to illustrate the point with a tangible object.
  2. Inform visitors that you will be reading the book The Keeping Quilt aloud, which is the story of what an heirloom quilt has come to mean to a Russian family.
  3. After reading the book, ask the following questions:
    1. Besides the obvious uses for the quilt, what unique things did it become for this family over the years?
    2. How did the keeping quilt connect generations/tie people together?
    3. Think about the twenty million or more people who came through Ellis Island. Whether they decided to live in New York or in our town, how do you think they made their new houses feel like homes?
    4. Why do we keep some objects and not others?
  4. Next, invite visitors to “Tell us about your keeping object…” Inquire how it was acquired or created, about its first owner, how it has been passed down through the generations, and what is has come to mean to your family.
  5. Take a digital photo of the family with their object. Email the photo to the family and consider posting it on your website.
  6. Consider inviting a conservationist (or using one on your staff if possible) to have on site for families interested in learning more about how to safely preserve heirloom objects.

Extensions: Continue the discussion with questions like—

  • The keeping quilt helped to keep the family history and traditions alive and connected the family over time. Today, what might a family keep to preserve traditions and family history? (a scrapbook, photo album, or a videotape of special events).

Activity Two: {HOUSE} Our HOUSEstory

Age Appropriateness: All ages, ideal for a family
Time Needed: 1–2 hours


This activity gives your visitors a chance to record the “house-story” of their current residence.

Required Materials

  • 4–5 photographs of historic homes in your area
  • “Our HOUSEstory” packed (one for each participating family)
  • Color copy (if possible) of participating family’s house photograph
  • Pens and pencils
  • Scissors and glue sticks
  • Colored pencils (optional)
  • “Tips for Discovering More about your Home’s History” handout

Program Directions

  1. Introduce this activity by passing around historic photographs of homes in your area that represent a variety of architectural designs, styles, and periods. Your state historical society or county library most likely has access to these kinds of photos, or has a digital, web-based database of historic photographs.
  2. Invite comments on each photo with exploratory questions like:
    1. What do you notice about this house? Is there anything that makes it unique?
    2. How old do you think it is? Who do you think first lived here? (have the answers to these questions available)
    3. What is the house made of?
    4. Can you think of how our region’s climate or unique landscape characteristics may have influenced its design?
  3. Instruct participants to look at the photograph of their own home. What do they know about its history? Inform them that the following activity will help them to create a record of what they know about their home’s history for both themselves and future owners.
  4. Pass out a copy of “Our HOUSEstory” packet to each participating family. They will work together to complete the worksheet as best they can. They should begin by pasting a color copy of their home in the space provided. The rectangular box below the picture is for inserting the home’s address. The remaining pieces of the document should be self-explanatory.
  5. While all family members will contribute to this project, encourage the family to designate the following roles:
    1. Scribe (will write text)
    2. Architect (will draw floor plan)
  6. Before departing, pass out the “Tips for Discovering More about Your Home’s History” handout so that families can continue to learn their house history through online searches and local historical resources.

Activity Three: {HOME} “Oh Give me a Home Where…”

Age Appropriateness: All ages
Time Needed: Thirty minutes


This activity gives visitors a chance to write a song about their homes based on the iconic song, “Home on the Range.”

Required Materials

  • A CD or media player that can play “Home on the Range” for reference
  • Blank song sheets for guests to write in their lyrics
  • Pens and pencils
  • OPTIONAL: a device to record guests’ songs to play for future guests

Program Directions

  1. Start by playing the song “Home on the Range.”
  2. Give a short history about the song: Dr. Brewster M. Higley (1823–1911) originally wrote the words in a poem called “My Western Home” in the early 1870s in Smith County, Kansas. The poem was first published in a December 1873 issue of the Smith County Pioneer under the title “Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam.” The music was written by a friend of Higley, Daniel E. Kelley (1845–1905). Higley’s original words are similar to those of the song today, but not identical. The song was adopted by settlers, cowboys, and others and spread across the United States in various forms. During the early twentieth century, it was arranged by Texas composer David W. Guion (1892–1981), who is often credited as the composer. It was officially adopted as the state song of Kansas on June 30, 1947, and is commonly regarded as the unofficial anthem of the American West.
  3. Explain to the guests that they will be rewriting this song to reflect their “home.” There are two options for how this can be done: 1) individuals may write their own lyrics, or 2) the group of guests may each contribute a line and then compile their lines for a unique song reflecting many perspectives on the memorable parts of their homes.
  4. OPTIONS: display the guests’ completed songs so future guests can see what others would highlight about their homes OR record the guests singing their completed songs and play them for future guests

Activity Four: {HOUSE} All Things Needful?

Age Appropriateness: All ages
Time Needed: Thirty minutes


This activity will challenge guests to determine what things are truly NEEDED in a home. By choosing either miniatures of actual household items or pictures of household items, guests will create a “Top Five” list of household items. VARIATION: Instead of a “Top Five” list, have guests rank a sampling of items according to their necessity.

Required Materials

  • A stack of pictures of household items, OR some miniature representations of household items
  • Paper and pencils
  • If using printouts of pictures of household items, then you will need large pieces of card stock to glue them to
  • Glue sticks

Program Directions

  1. Introduce this question to the visitors: What are the most needful items in a home? Their answers will vary. Encourage them to state items they think are needed in a house.
  2. Inform the visitors that they need to take the idea even further and try and decide how they would rank certain items according to their necessity.

If using pictures of household items:

  • Present each visitor (or they could work together as a group) with a small stack of pictures depicting household items. Items might include things like: refrigerator, stove, TV, washing machine, bed, computer, sheets, a knife, clothes, ect.
  • OPTION 1: Have visitors pick their “Top Five” items they think are absolute necessities for a house. Encourage them to explain why they chose the items they did.
  • OPTION 2: Have visitors rank the items included in the stack of pictures. Have them explain why they find certain objects more necessary than others.
  • This activity could simply be a hands-on activity that is left behind for each visitor, or group of visitors, to use.
  • An alternative would be to provide paper/card stock to mount the pictures that were chosen. This would be something that visitors could take home with them.

If using miniature representations of household items:

  • The concept is the same as the previous activity, but instead of pictures, visitors will use the actual items to classify the most needful items for a house.
  • Provide a table or display where visitors can arrange the items they determine are necessary.
  • Again, they could rank all of the items included, or they could pick their “Top Five” items and display them.

This is a hands-on activity with no take-home component.

Exhibition Reference Materials

Download this list here. Education materials traveling with the exhibition are denoted with an asterisk (*).

Books for Adults

Chalufour, Ingrid. Building Structures with Young Children (2004).

Cowen, Ruth Schwartz. More Work For Mother: The Ironies Of Household Technology From The Open Hearth To The Microwave (1985).

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. A Social History of American Technology (1997).

*Clark, Clifford E. The American Family Home: 1800-1960 (1986).

*Foy, Jessica and Thomas J. Schlereth. American Home Life, 1880-1930: A Social History of Spaces and Services (1992).

*Jackson, Kenneth. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (1987).

*Larkin, Jack. Where We Lived: Discovering the Places We Once Called Home, The American Home from 1775 to 1840 (2006).

Lethem, Jonathan, Curtis Sittenfeld, Neil LaBute, Heidi Julavits, Meg Cabot, Ben Katchor, Sheila
Heti, Lydia Millet, William Gibson, Annie Nocenti, Tom McCarthy, Ben Greenman, Shelley Jackson, Bruce Sterline and 86 others . . . . Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary Things (2012).

*McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses (1984).

Needleman, Deborah and Virgina Johnson (illustrator). The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well (2011).

Poppeliers, John C. and S. Allen Chambers. What Style is It? A Guide to American Architecture (2003).

*Upton, Dell. America’s Architectural Roots: Ethnic Groups That Built America (1986).

Children’s Books

Arnold, Caroline. Children of the Settlement Houses (1998).

Ballard, Robin. Good-bye, House (1994).

*Bean, Jonathan. Building Our House (2013).

Bourgeois, Paulette. Oma’s Quilt (2001).

Buchanan, Ken. This House is Made of Mud (2004).

Burton, Virginia Lee. The Little House (1942).

DiSalvo, DyAnne. A Castle on Viola Street (2001).

Dittmer, Lori. The Future of Architecture (2012).

DK Publishing, A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World (2005).

*Dr. Seuss (written as Theo LeSieg). In a People House (1972).

Gibbons, Gail. How a House is Built (1996).

Guarnaccia, Stephen. The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale (2010).

Hoberman, Mary Ann. A House is a House For Me (1978).

Kittinger, Jo S. The House on Dirty-Third Street (2012).

Laden, Nina. Roberto, The Insect Architect (2000).

Menzel, Peter, Charles C. Mann, and Paul Kennedy. Material World: A Global Family Portrait (1995).

*Morris, Ann. Houses and Homes (1992).

*Nelson, Robin. Home Then and Now (2003).

Nolen, Jerdine. In My Momma’s Kitchen (2001).

Perkins, Lynne Rae. Home Lovely (1995).

Pilutti, Deb. The City Kid & the Suburb Kid (2008).

Pinkwater, Daniel. Big Orange Spot (1977).

*Rylant, Cynthia. Let’s Go Home: The Wonderful Things About a House (2005).

Shoulders, Michael and Sarah Brannen. The ABC Book of American Homes (2008).

Shelby, Anne. The Someday House (1996).

Slade, Suzanne. House That George Built (2012).

Spilsbury, Louise A. Can Buildings Speak? (2007).

Szekeres, Cynthia. Long Ago (1977).

*Thermes, Jennifer. When I was Built (2001).

Wells, Rosemary and Tom. The House in the Mail (2004).

Whitman, Sylvia. Children of the Frontier (2003).

Williams, Vera. A Chair for My Mother (1982).


*Modern Marvels, Household Wonders. History Channel (DVD, 1997)

*American Homes, American Homes Film, DVD, 2010

That’s How We Build A House, Spots Video, DVD, 2002

Film and Drama

The Money Pit (1986)

The House of Sand and Fog (2003)

Inside Job (2010)

Margin Call (2011)

We All Fall Down (2009)

The Truman Show (1998)

Mr. Blandins Builds His Dream House (1948)

Online Tools

Online Tools

American Homes

An animated history of residential architecture in America unfolds while notable figures in the world of design and architecture weigh in on what a house is and can be.

Architecture and Design Education Network

The American Architectural Foundation and the Chicago Architectural Foundation started ADEN to advance public interest and education in architecture and design. Programs, resources, and lesson plans are offered that promote innovative architecture and design education for teachers and students in grades K-12.

Building Homes of Our Own

Sample lesson plans and ideas on connecting the ideas to homebuilding to math, social studies, science, English, and technology.

EDSITEment: History in Household Objects

The National Endowment for the Humanities educational site offers lesson plans and activities for exploring the use and meanings of household items.

Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream

New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s online exhibit showcasing the results of five teams of architects, planners, ecologists, engineers, landscape designers, and other specialists in the urban and suburban condition who developed proposals for housing that would open new routes through the mortgage foreclosure crisis that continues to afflict the United States.

History of Household Items

This website catalogs the history of common (and not-so-common) household items and their inventors.

Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University

The centers website devoted to research that advances understanding of housing issues and informs policy.

The Making of the American Home: Architecture, 1868–1930

University of Massachusetts Lowell Electronic Libraries presents an online “exhibit” that covers notable architecture movements from 1868-1930.

The Making of the American Home: Technology, 1868–1930

University of Massachusetts Lowell Electronic Libraries presents an online “exhibit” that covers notable innovations in home technology from 1868-1930. Specific categories of innovation are heating and lighting, cooking, communications, and home appliances.

Pre-Contact Housing Types

This educational page details the architecture and geography of Native American dwellings precontact.

Smithsonian Libraries: The Making of a Homemaker

An online exhibit that explores the domestic advice guidebooks targeting the late nineteenth century housewife. View featured books and images from books.

Youngstown State Oral Histories: Home Appliances

Visit a catalog of recorded and transcripted online oral histories of memories related to household appliances.




Lessons for Educators

Please download lesson plans below. Each includes pre- and post-visit activities.

Lesson One: Object Desire


  1. To notice and examine the things in our house (our stuff)—the objects around us—and consider the time and place in which they were created.
  2. To discover how the objects (through context—time and place) tell the story of the way in which we live and help make a house a home.
  3. To consider the things (objects) in our lives and evaluate if we truly need them.

Lesson Two: Place is the Space


  1. To examine the spaces and architectural structures in which we live, both familiar and famous.
  2. To consider various architectural styles and observe the context surrounding various spaces/places.
  3. To understand how homes create neighborhoods and how neighborhoods make up a community.