Blog

40 Years of Brucemore: Rarely Seen Items from Brucemore’s Collection

December 23rd, 2021
Second floor sitting room during the Hall era, c. 1940.

Since Brucemore opened its doors as a historic house museum and community cultural center in 1981, over a million people have come to the site to take a tour of the house, attend a cultural program, or just have a peaceful walk in the garden. Seeing the collection of artifacts from the families who called Brucemore home is one of the of the many factors that draw visitors to want to explore and learn about the estate’s history. Chances are, however, even if someone has been visiting Brucemore for years, they still will not have seen everything in the collection. The “40 Years” exhibit will showcase some of the rarely seen items and illuminate what those items can teach us about the history of Brucemore and the community.

Like most museums, Brucemore only displays a small portion of what it holds in its collection. Most museums display less than five percent of their collection at any given time. This is a universal reality for many reasons; most museums have limited gallery or display space and most artifacts are fragile in nature. Brucemore displays more than your average gallery-style museum, though with a display rate at closer to 30 percent.

Over its 40 year history as a museum, what Brucemore has on display has changed. Visitors in the first few years would have seen the home furnished much as the Hall family, the final residents of home, had left it. Many rooms were also used as office space for local organizations or Brucemore staff, and thus, were inaccessible to visitors. As staff began to research the broader history of the home in the early 1980s and 1990s, the importance of interpreting the Douglas era became clearer. The landscape, multiple outbuildings, and many character defining features of the mansion were added during the period that the Douglas family lived on the estate. As Hall era furnishings aged and Douglas family members began to donate family heirlooms, restoring the home to the period of 1906 to 1937 became the interpretive goal.

One of the objects featured in the 40th anniversary virtual exhibit.

Several rooms in the mansion have been restored to that era including the Study, Library, Great Hall, Dining Room, Sewing Room, and Groom’s Room. Furnishings from those rooms from the Hall era were moved to storage, and though some of the items have been featured in various exhibits since, many of the objects have not been widely available for public view.

Other items are rarely displayed due to their fragile nature. Brucemore’s collection of period costumes from family members is rarely displayed due to the risk associated with displaying clothing. Some clothing items are placed on display during the holidays. Some items are damaged and need conservation work before they can be safely displayed. Photographs and archival collections largely remain in storage and viewing is limited to researchers and staff. Facsimile copies are used for display as items are needed.

Even though many items in the collection aren’t seen by visitors very often, these objects still serve important purposes. They help the staff learn about the histories of the families and how they fit into larger historical trends and stories. This information informs the stories shared on tours and decisions about exhibits, conservation, and interpretation. The items featured in this exhibit are all unique and have important stories to tell a about the families of Brucemore.

Enjoy this peek behind the scenes and view the virtual exhibit!

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General

Do I need to pay to enter the estate and walk on the grounds?

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.

Is a reservation needed to visit Brucemore?

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.