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WEEDEN HOUSE: Treasure for History Buffs in Huntsville, AL

You will recognize Gina James' skills as a consummate teacher when you take one of her tours of the Weeden House at 300 Gates Avenue SE in Huntsville. Gina is the capable director of The Weeden House Museum, and during one of her hour-long tours, you will be introduced to the special features of the house as well as the inspiring life of its most famous resident, Maria Horace Weeden.

The Weeden House is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tours begin promptly at 10:00 and 1:00. Admission is $5.00 per adult.

Maria Howard Weeden left off the Maria part of her name, and even though she was only 4' 8" tall and very dainty, she preferred to use her very masculine name.

The Weeden House Museum is described as an ethnographic museum. To be honest, that sent me scrambling to learn what the word meant. According to Wikipedia: "Ethnography explores cultural phenomena from the point of view of the subject of the study. Ethnography is also a type of social research that involves examining the behaviour of the participants in a given social situation and understanding the group members' own interpretation of such behaviour.

As a form of inquiry, ethnography relies heavily on participant observation—on the researcher participating in the setting or with the people being studied, at least in some marginal role, and seeking to document, in detail, patterns of social interaction and the perspectives of participants, and to understand these in their local contexts."

As far as Weeden House goes, it represents the paintings and poetry of Horace Weeden with newly-freed African Americans after the Civil War as her subjects. Ms. Weeden was appalled when she saw former slaves depicted as cartoons and caricatures, because she considered many as her personal friends. She used paintbrushes with only a few horsehairs for bristles to capture the most minute details of her subjects' faces. While these friends posed for their paintings, Ms. Weeden had extensive conversations with them and then used what they had said in poems she wrote. Ms. Weeden eventually had four books of her paintings and poetry published.

The house was built in 1819. Ms. Weeden was born there in 1846 and lived in the house until her death in 1905, except for a couple of years during the Civil War when her mother relocated Horace and her siblings to Tuskegee for a few years. During that time, Union troops occupied the house.

I'll let Gina James fill you in on a hundred other details.

History lovers will enjoy touring the home, and I'd recommend this as an outing for Senior Adult groups. It would be hard to beat a tour coupled with a meal at one of Huntsville's great restaurants.

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