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A town not too far away from where I live (Palmer... maybe Westfield, can't recall) is having an intriguing debate over some row houses. Some are calling these row houses drug-dealer infested eyesores. Others are saying 'Hey man, let's like dial it back a bit - these are historical'. The properties are one of those parcels of land of dubious ownership with no clear title. So even though these buildings have been slated for demolition a number of times the town couldn't actually do anything about it. Likewise those wanting to preserve the buildings can't legally access them to make repairs. So they are in Limbo.
I haven't visited the properties so I have no personal verification of their state of being. Would these particular buildings be worth saving? The proponents are saying that these are uniquely constructed. In addition they have had a unique history associated with the lives of workers in the late 19th century. The local historical commission had helped spare these buildings in the past in the hopes that the legal issues could be worked out.
So this whole debate got me thinking is every museum deserving of support just because it is a museum? It is quite possible that these houses are a blight. Criminal acts probably do spawn from there. As that parcel currently sits it certainly should be redeveloped once the proper ownership is hammered out. As a museum, yes they would have a valid academic value, but maybe a new convenience store generates some commerce? It is a valid community debate.
As a museum lover I fall into the pro-museum camp. These properties are rare. They are not being built anymore. Yes, I am sure that such architectural, engineering, societal data is stored somewhere. I do love my books but that does not equate to physically walking into the structure. They very easily could be incorporated into an educational course. Perhaps be a stop in a regional history tour. So while, no, this little row house museum is not going to draw like the Guggenheim, as a part of a larger whole it would have a place. Is that enough to outweigh other neighborhood needs?
When I was searching for the original news article I happened upon links directing to a larger debate is every house museum necessary? Apparently there are more house museums in the U.S. than McDonald's restaurants. That was an interesting article too. The debate rages. The nice thing is that we live in a society where we are arguing about having too many museums. I can live with that debate.
Here is the link to that Boston Globe article.
Row House Magazine, who knew?