Goodstein-Murphree to Present Lecture at Crystal Bridges on Aug. 20

Bachman Wilson House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by Tarantino Studio (copyright 2013); courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark.
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Bachman Wilson House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by Tarantino Studio (copyright 2013); courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Ethel Goodstein-Murphree, associate dean and professor of architecture in the Fay Jones School of Architecture, will present a lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Goodstein-Murphree’s talk, titled “The Museum as House…or…the House at the Museum?: Reflections on the Relationship Between Museums and Domestic Space, In Honor of the Bachman Wilson House,” is part of the museum’s architecture speaker series.

It goes without saying that museums display fascinating stuff, from the Mona Lisa to Dorothy’s shoes, from the Hope Diamond to Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull. The house, however, is no ordinary cultural artifact, making both the curatorial practices and cultural politics of representing domestic space in the context of the museum a complex, and potentially contentious, proposition. When the house becomes a museum, or a house is exhibited in a museum installation, the lines that distinguish between the domain of the house and that of the museum necessarily blur, challenging the boundaries of public and private space, and of aesthetic, scientific and domestic frames of reference.

So too, any representation of domestic space is fraught with sub-textual tales of gender and class, style and technology, and, particular to the museum, curatorial practice and popular perception. The acquisition of the Bachman Wilson House by Crystal Bridges begs examination in these contexts. Through this talk, Goodstein-Murphree intends to deepen our appreciation of the Bachman Wilson House by fostering an understanding of the historical development of the sometimes shotgun marriage between the house and the museum.

In her talk, Goodstein-Murphree will discuss great buildings, often the palatial residences of collectors of fine arts, that have become museums, including Rome’s Palazzo Barberini, now the Galleria Borghese and National Gallery of Ancient Art, and New York’s Frick Collection, once the Fifth Avenue mansion of coke and steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, and the traditional house museum, from the Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon, to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, an icon of the international style in the United States. With particular relevance to the Bachman Wilson House installation, this talk will conclude with a glimpse at the “model house” at world’s expositions, trade shows, and, of course, museums, as an accessible vehicle for establishing 20th-century modernism as a fitting architectural form for contemporary American lifestyles through discussion of Edward Durell Stone’s Collier’s House of Ideas, Gregory Ain’s modern exhibition house for the Museum of Modern Art, and the appearance of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian House at a then-young Guggenheim Museum.

Goodstein notes that the discussion of museums and houses is timely, with recent debate on the continuing cultural capital of the house museum appearing in The Boston Globe and an upcoming conference titled “Houses as Museums/Museums as Houses,” scheduled next month at London’s Wallace Collection. More important, however, she argues is the obligation and complexity of interpreting the Bachman Wilson House once it becomes whole again on the Crystal Bridges campus. Celebrating the work of Frank Lloyd Wright as fine art is not enough, she posits; recognizing the commentary on American dwelling and domesticity embedded in his Usonian ideal is essential to making meaning of this architectural exemplar.

Admission is free for museum members and $10 for non-members. Registration for this lecture is available online or at the museum's Guest Services.

For more information, contact Crystal Bridges at 479-657-2335 or visit


Ethel Goodstein-Murphree, associate dean and professor of architecture
Fay Jones School of Architecture

Michelle Parks, director of communications
Fay Jones School of Architecture

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