Representations of slavery in Washington, D.C.: A case study on presenting slavery at Dumbarton House
Most early urban historic house museums and plantation museums originated around a need to "strengthen and fortify the conservative element of the nation's life" through restoring the homes of white, elite, male political figures (West 1999:2). Even today, this continues. However, some historical institutions are now attempting to interpret the other history of these house and plantation museums-the story of those enslaved. Contemporary theory states that museums and historic sites fit into one of four representational categories in their interpretations of slavery which are: symbolic annihilation and erasure, trivialization and deflection, segregation and marginalization, and relative incorporation (Eichstedt and Small: 2002). I will apply this typology to these five D.C. historic house museums: Decatur House, Arlington House, Tudor Place, the Frederick Douglass House, and Dumbarton House. I will also provide a case study which will show Dumbarton House fits into the category of trivialization and deflection.