Theses Master's

“Rethinking” the Period Room: A Defense of the Exhibited Interior

Marinovich, Brooke

Period rooms have long been museums' most popular attractions – ironically, not without controversy. A twentieth-century phenomenon spurred in the United States by several examples in European museums throughout Munich and Zurich, these rooms allow visitors to physically and spatially experience and evoke how our forebears lived. It is evident why these spaces are appealing to the masses: Their cohesive environment is an immersive and tactile experience for viewers to gain further appreciation and admiration for the decorative arts.

Despite their popularity, there is also continuous controversy behind the concept of the period room. Many experts in the field strongly disagree with their appropriateness in museum settings. These concerns are largely attributed to the fact that these rooms have been moved from their original historic building, often due to a site’s demolition.

Regardless of their debated existence, one cannot deny that the period room serves as a valuable educational tool for its viewers. These rooms are in many cases the only extant salvages of these demolished historic buildings. Once moved into a museum setting, the room acquires an educational purpose and gives museums the opportunity to present their collections in a harmonious manner, allowing the architecture and decorative arts to work in tandem.

While it has distinct value, it is not an easy feat. These rooms must conform to museum settings because they are configured into an existing space within the museum. During this installation process, issues arise pertaining to sizing, ceiling height constraints, material addition or extraction, and the implementation of a museum's modern technology, such as security systems and fire safety equipment. Unveiling these physical and technical challenges will establish a new layer of understanding towards the period room as well as institute a defense for these understudied rooms.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Weiss, Norman R.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
May 29, 2024