Just go with it! Questioning the authenticity mythology

Digital Fire

It is such a simple idea. Buy a large flat screen TV and DVD.  Plug it in.  Place it in all of your historic house museum fireplaces, press “PLAY” on your fire dvd AND I promise you the space will come alive. I have found such opposition to this idea – “it’s cheesy, ugly, dumb, not historically correct, not part of our interpretation, those kinds of fires didn’t exist back then, it’s in-authentic!”.    I say – JUST GO WITH IT!

Scan 133070000

The Aline Barnsdall Hollyhock House, Frank Lloyd Wright, c. 1921 (romantic music added by FDV)

Room from the Powel House, 1765–66; remodeled 1769–71. Philadelphia, moved to MET, 1918 (romantic music added by FDV, Photographs used for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

8 thoughts on “Just go with it! Questioning the authenticity mythology

  1. What a great post. Yes, the digital fireside is tacky. But most of pop culture is tacky, it always has been. I say pipe in some period music via a bluetooth device and set a mood! The fact that it sparked conversation (pun intended) and lit the room in its own unique way is its best value. Historians & preservationists who want historic houses to be stuck in aspic, have forgotten that these were once homes filled warmth. It’s just being recreated digitally today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it looks awesome! It’s definitely not any worse than the electric candles many sites use, especially at Christmastime – some of those are truly awful. I like how you disguised the base of the TV with kindling – I could scarcely tell it was there! I’m thinking about suggesting it to a local historic house, but then I remembered that they have giant, open, probably-used-to-be-jambless fireplaces that wouldn’t hide the TV as easily as these deep and shadowy fireplaces do.


  3. @Sarah – I don’t think we need to try and hide the TV. The authenticity of the digital image is important as well. I did use wood to place in front of the digital fire – some hated the use of real wood with the digital image.


  4. Dear Twisted,
    This is a topic that is very dear to me- the fireplace. I grew up with a constant fire burning and it’s been a sort of holy grail of my adult life. I’ve never quite gotten the log burning fire place! Got a gas one with charming fake coals, then yes, also “Cozy crackling fireplace”, which did help to address the sheer desperation for a fire. Then my wife gave me a “fire box” it was black and burned some kind of clean fuel I had to send away for. Most of the time it was a cruel black box on a white wall. Recently, we took it down and painted the walls “Humbert Red”. The tv plays a lot of sentimental British shows, and they together with the red color are finally making things feel cozy.
    xo Hannah

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Having the “fireplace” on is a nice touch. There are many historically oriented people that would be abhorded. I am a died in the wool historian but could see that as a possible enrichment if covered to look real with wood. Piping in historically appropriate music as one enters each historic house or room would be amazing. Just think of how that music would immediately draw the public into the time period being displayed! Fantaastic idea. I’ll probably bring that up at our next trustees meeting. Love you web site….didn’t think I would. Thanks for your amazing thoughts.


  6. I keep asking myself WWDSD (What Would Dennis Severs Do) when faced with questions like this and always find an answer in the affirmative. It’s a great idea. Moreover, it’s worth trying in order to create an experience, rather than an interpretation. An experience will, or at least should, leave a guest changed by the engagement.


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