Gifts from Douglas Family Descendent Provide New Information

Diaries Return to Brucemore Collection

December 12th, 2020

Gifts From Douglas Family Descendent Provide New information

The artifacts in Brucemore’s collection have a strong connection to the families who lived on the estate and the businesses they owned. Brucemore accepts only a few gifts to the collection every year because of the requirement that each piece be traceable in one of these ways.

In the fall of 2020, a descendent of Barbara, the youngest Douglas daughter, visited Brucemore and brought with her two items that she wished to donate back to Brucemore. This included two of Barbara’s diaries dated from 1926 and 1938-42.

“Diaries are one of the best ways to learn about the personal lives of historic figures,” said Museum Program Manager Jessica Peel-Austin. “Even if the diary author does not write about their most personal thoughts and feelings, the records of their daily activities, what they ate for a meal, and important events in their lives give historians a window into what was important to the author.”

The 1926 diary supplements two other diaries written by other women in the family from that same year. Having multiple perspectives documenting their days from the same time provides a rounded view of what was occurring in the lives of the Douglas women in 1926.

Below are a few transcriptions from Barbara’s 1926 diary to give you insight into the type of information that can be gleaned from this type of archival material. As context, Barbara was 18 at the time and graduated from her preparatory school, Miss Porter’s School in Framingham, Conn., in the spring. It was one of the most elite finishing schools in the country and was attended by some of the most well-known socialites of the day – Barbara Hutton, Gloria Vanderbilt, and later, Jaqueline Onassis. In her diary, Barbara seemed to enjoy her musical pursuits and social activities. She contemplated where to go next. She considered going to Miss Spence’s School in New York where her sisters had gone for additional schooling, but ultimately decided to attend the French School for Girls, also in New York, while she continued studying music.

Barbara is away at boarding school at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut.

Thursday, Jan. 14, 1926

Today – classes – coasted – study hour – this evening a lecture on Russian music. At dinner Mlle. gave an elaborate discourse on necking & drinking. Mother’s coming a week from Saturday. Hurray – the one bright spot in my sordid existence.

Sunday, Jan. 24, 1926

Mothers been here and gone. Never had such a divine weekend! Someone in this school is adorable! I love Mother and Danny so! I never had such fun. I’m in hell tonight however – and in love! Sickening.

Tuesday, March 9, 1926

Got very good in my ethics test but she said it was a splendid paper, so I felt better. Dancing this P.M. and we are now ready for the exhibition which is Thursday eve. Dressed up like street girls this eve and everyone agreed that I looked the toughest. Well, that’s one livelihood to fall back on!

Wednesday, March 17, 1926

Vacation! Got up at the crack of dawn – were first in the dining room & on the train. Danny met us! It seems a dream being in New York. Lunched at the Park Lane – the apartment is divine with a piano & everything. Had a hair cut this P.M. & went to Miss Ethel’s. Had dinner at the Bat – a lovely Italian restaurant – had ravioli. Went to the “Creaking Chair” & nearly died of fright! It was ghastly!

Saturday, March 27, 1926

Arrived in Chicago after a jolly long train ride and shopped all day after meeting Ellen & Danny. Lunch at the Woman’s Athletic. Got some snappy shoes. Home at last and there is no place like it! We have new wallpaper on the 2nd & 3rd floors – a hunting scene – jolly!

With help from the descendent, staff were also able to resolve previous family gifts that had not been formally accepted into the collection, a process known as accessioning. This is a common challenge in the museum field, especially as museums often begin without a collections policy to help employees make decisions about what can be accepted by the museum. As organizations grow and professionalize, staff are often able to identify and resolve these issues.

Above: A silver tape dispenser originally loaned in 1982 and accepted as gift this year.
Above: A silver wine chiller with an inscription that reads, “Droit et Avant,” or “Right and Forward.” Unidentified marker.
Above: Fluted creamer and sugar bowl. The source of these items was unknown for many years but was found on an expired loan from Barbara’s family. They were accessioned this year.


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No. Visiting the Brucemore estate during grounds hours is free. Tickets are only required for scheduled tours and events, and they can be purchased in advance online.

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You do not need a reservation to visit the grounds on your own. You do need a ticket to go inside the mansion. We recommend advance reservations for any of our mansion tours or other scheduled special themed tours due to limited capacity. Please visit our calendar to see upcoming opportunities and to purchase your tickets.

Touring the Mansion

Can I take pictures inside the mansion?

Yes. Photography is allowed during tours for personal, non-professional use. Tripods, selfie-sticks, or other photography equipment will not be permitted. Photographs should not distract from others’ enjoyment.

How large is the mansion?

Brucemore is approximately 15,000 square feet.

How many fireplaces, rooms, and floors does Brucemore have?

There are 21 “main” rooms, 14 fireplaces and four floors plus an attic.

Is all of the furniture original to the house and families?

Much of the furniture you will see on display belonged to the second or third families to live at Brucemore; however, some pieces had to be replaced with replicas or similar antiques.

Is the mansion handicap accessible?

The Brucemore mansion includes multiple floors and several staircases. Because of the historic architecture, some spaces are not accessible. Due to preservation work, the wheelchair lift that offers accessibility to the first floor is not available at this time. An elevator is not available from the first floor to the other floors at any time. Learn more about accessibility at Brucemore.

Group and School Tours

Is there an age requirement for students visiting Brucemore?

You do not have to be a certain age to visit or attend a program at Brucemore. Different programs are best suited for different ages. Tours of the mansion are recommended for 4th grade and older due to the concepts and historic collection.

Where do we park?

Parking is available on site a short walk from the mansion or carriage house. Buses must follow special instructions. Large events may not be able to accommodate on-site parking; please see the event calendar information for exceptions.

Is bus parking available?

Yes. Bus parking is available near the carriage house. Buses must arrive via special directions as they are unable to fit in our historic gates.

Is there a lunch area at Brucemore?

There is not a designated area indoors or outdoors to eat; however, you are welcome to bring your own blanket or chair to picnic on the grounds. Please carry out any trash to help our small staff keep the grounds beautiful.

Does my group have to arrive together?

Please let group members or chaperones know where they can meet the group.

What is your payment policy?

Brucemore admission is to be paid prior to the visit and a deposit may be required. Payment can be made by cash, check, or credit card and should be paid in one sum.

Do I need to make an appointment to tour the mansion?

You must have a ticket to a tour or program inside the mansion. Many tours do sell out in advance; purchase online or by calling 319-362-7375 in advance of your visit to guarantee your spot. See the schedule here.

Is the mansion wheelchair accessible?

The mansion is not currently accessible to wheelchairs due to preservation work. The mansion includes multiple flights of stairs. Most of the outdoor areas of the site are accessible. See our full accessibility information and contact us with additional questions regarding your visit.

Can I walk on the property?

Yes, the grounds and gardens are open daily most of the year. Several self-guided interpretive panels and tours via QR codes are available. See hours here.

What is Brucemore’s ticket policy?

Tickets are non-refundable, but may be rescheduled for comparable programs as space allows. Learn more.

I’m attending a large event at Brucemore. Where do I park?

Large events may require you to park offsite. Please read the event details on the calendar for specific information for each event.

Are weapons allowed at Brucemore?

We prohibit weapons on the property and at programs to ensure the safety and security of all employees and people visiting Brucemore.