• Part of a roofline shows from one building. Trees with fall color leaves on them fill most of the photo. A lamp-post is near center of the photo.

    Harpers Ferry Center

New Frederick Law Olmsted Exhibits

A parlor room in an old house, with informational exhibits on display
Perhaps more than any other person, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) affected the way America looks. Best known as the creator of major urban parks, his influence on green spaces across the nation helped define our towns, cities, suburban life, and wilderness areas. Olmsted moved to "Fairsted" in south Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1883 and established the first full-scale professional office for the practice of landscape architecture in the United States. During the next century, his sons and successors perpetuated Olmsted's design ideals and philosophy.

In 2009, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site requested the help of Harpers Ferry Center to develop self-guided exhibits for the first floor of the house that engage both the casual as well as the knowledgeable visitor who is making a pilgrimage to the place where so many of America's best-loved landscapes were designed.

Exhibits provide an introduction to Olmsted Sr., the profession of landscape architecture and the Olmsted firm, Olmsted's design principles (including those represented by the landscaping at Fairsted), and the variety of different landscape types designed by the firm. Two stand-alone interactive programs, "The Life Cycle of a Park" and "Evolution of the Design Firm" are included for more in-depth learning. Throughout, the exhibits also draw attention to domestic aspects of the home. To address programmatic accessibility goals, the exhibits include an audio described tour using ten mobile devices.

Out of respect for its architectural features, all work was planned to have minimal impact on the historic appearance of Fairsted, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963.

All photos by RBH Multimedia

A foyer with stairs and informational exhibits

A middle-aged man uses a touchscreen kiosk exhibit

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