Theses Master's

Food Interpretation At House Museums And Historic Sites: The Characteristics Of Successful Food Programs

Pardo, Victoria

The main goal of this thesis was to develop criteria that identified major flaws in food programs at historic sites and house museums. Food interpretation is a valuable tool that can be utilized to enhance a site’s mission. It not only reveals conditions of the past, but also reveals important social concerns of today. House museums have the opportunity to use food interpretation to gain relevance in their communities and strengthen their site as a whole. The work I have done is observational as an outsider, visitor, and individual with a sense of the role interpretation could play, with the goal of informing sites that want to create food programs. This work is a prelude to creating an evaluation metric, but it is not a metric in itself.

Four diverse case studies were used in order to analyze a variety of sites. The case studies include: Billings Farm in Woodstock Vermont, the Tenement Museum in New York City, Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and the Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Seven criteria were developed after careful observation, interviews, and research. These criteria are pivotal to the success of a food program. However, these criteria cannot be applied to the sites in a one-size-fits-all fashion. Rather, certain criteria can be tailored to fit a site’s unique needs.
The conclusion of this thesis reveals the importance of continued growth, synergy between the mission and management of the site with the food program, setting up audience expectations, cohesive interpretive practice, the inclusion of contemporary issues in the interpretation, increased community engagement, and finally the role of authenticity. This thesis also addresses common misconceptions of what makes a good food program, as well as signs to look for that lead to a troubled one.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Bentel, Paul L.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 24, 2019