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Permanent Exhibits

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Experience the Oldest House in Oakland County:
The John West Hunter House

HH kitchenJohn West Hunter House.This small 1822 pioneer home was preserved by moving it--twice. Though it looks humble now, it once was the first framed house amid log cabins in early Birmingham, and still tells the story of that early period, as well as marking changes over time as it was inhabited by successive generations of Birmingham families. In 2022, the trim throughout the house was repainted after historic paint analysis revealed the colors that had been used in the mid-19th century. This restores the appearance of the home to more closely approximate how it would have looked during much of its life.

Admission to the Hunter House is included with regular museum admission, and is hosted by our knowledgeable and friendly staff. To get a taste of what you will see inside, watch a video of a brief tour of the house with Kent Lund of "The Collectors" cable program and Museum Specialist, Caitlin Donnelly. 

Circa 1976 Creem Magazine Office and Reading Room 
Creem Exhibit.Popular demand of our Creem Magazine archives by the public, researchers, filmmakers, and rock historians has resulted in a logical conclusion that we needed to "bring Creem back!"  After the 2014 Sounds of Birmingham exhibit was uninstalled, the interest in Creem seemed to only intensify.  To help bring the collection closer to visitors and researchers, we have re-created the Creem offices that were once located above the Birmingham Theatre in a permanent exhibit. Dubbed the Charlie Auringer Reading Room, it is an acknowledgement of the important role played by Auringer in preserving Creem's story and in his generous gift of his collection to the Birmingham Museum.  Check out a .pdf of our Creem Magazine Finding Aid.

The immersive experience includes a user-friendly, hands-on, working IBM Selectric typewriter that invites visitors to see what it is like to "write for Creem!"  as well as a study station and artifact display. We also have a rare 1970s video of a local television interview of Creem's early staff, with additional footage of Creem's personalities hanging out with the MC-5.  Stop by and see why former Creem staff 'got chills' when they saw it!

1927 Barnum School Storybook Fireplace
Barnum FireplaceLike many elementary schools of the era, Birmingham’s Barnum Elementary had a hearth-centered reading area for young children.  Learn more about Birmingham's schools of the period.  Art tile potteries of the period specialized in designs that featured childhood themes and nursery rhyme characters, and are commonly called “storybook” tile fireplaces.  Barnum’s was designed by the well-known Flint Faience & Tile Company, which produced glazed ceramic tile from 1922-1933.  When Barnum school was demolished in 2007, the fireplace surround was carefully de-constructed and stored.  In 2012, the fireplace was re-installed as a permanent exhibit at the Allen House.  The project was significantly funded by the Birmingham Rotary, with additional funding by the Friends of the Birmingham Historical Museum.   A complete interpretive plan will be undertaken to complete the room, which will include additional history on Birmingham’s rich educational traditions.

Step Into a 1920s/1930s Kitchen
Fridge and sink in kitchen.A early 20th century kitchen.You can almost smell the cookies baking and feel the warmth when you experience our period kitchen room.  Inspired by the Allen House’s original 1928 blueprints and Marion Allen’s color scheme, the layout and conveniences are typical of the era—practical and efficient.  The mint green color was matched to the original paint layer discovered on the walls; the sink and appliances are of the period; and the cabinets and tile countertop are modern reproductions.

Old stove in kitchen.
Old refrigerator in kitchen.
Off white painted cabinets with glass doors and a large wall-mounted enamel sink were common at the time, as were modern kitchen ranges such as the c. 1925 white enamel Preference.  It boasted elegant slender legs, four gas burners, a single oven stacked over a broiler, and a utility drawer.   Typical kitchen work tables had porcelain tops, such as this one from the Marshall Field & Company.  The c. 1927 General Electric Monitor Top’s cylindrical motor was top-mounted; it had a large capacity for the time, and sold for a hefty $300.  To make finance the cost, homeowners could add a monthly amount to their electric bills. Built to last, some of these gems can still be found in working order and are very popular among collectors.