Dewey Defeats Truman/The Housing Act of 1949
September 15, 2015 to January 9, 2016
Free and open to the public.
With the modern-day 24-hour news cycle, it’s hard to believe that we once relied on daily newspapers to deliver word of current events. But so it was in 1948, when one of the most infamous—and totally inaccurate—headlines of the day broke. A new exhibit at The West End Museum highlights that headline, the post-WWII national housing crisis and the onset of the federal urban renewal program.
Dewey Defeats Truman/The Housing Act of 1949 explores Democrat Harry S. Truman’s re-election in the face of a mounting housing demand, which prompted him to put urban renewal on the national agenda and set in motion the next chapter of the story of Boston’s West End.
The national housing crisis sparked bitter debate between Republicans and Democrats. During his campaign, Truman seized on the public’s frustration with the lack of progress and blamed the Republican-dominated Congress. The “Do-Nothing Congress,” as he called it, had refused to commit funds to urban renewal. But following his re-election, Congress returned to Democratic control and earmarked funding for the program that would lead to the demolition of neighborhoods like the West End, an unintended consequence of the housing solution.
“Regardless of how well-intentioned federal urban renewal may have been, the ultimate result for the West End was the complete destruction of a vibrant, tight-knit community and the displacement of thousands of families who called that neighborhood home,” said Duane Lucia, West End Museum Curator. For this exhibit, Lucia is joined by co-curators Bill Kuttner and Jim Briand.
Dewey Defeats Truman/The Housing Act of 1949 tells the story of the origin of urban renewal, including the legislation that financed “slum clearance” in American cities. Ironically the Act fell under Truman’s “Fair Deal” initiative. While envisioned to address the national housing shortage by transitioning families from “slums and firetraps” into safer public housing, the Act failed to recognize the cost of destroying the well-established communities in which these families lived.
Indelebile Italia by Giselle Valdes
September 22 to December 5, 2015
@ The West End Museum
Free and open to the public.
This fall, The West End Museum will host a new photography exhibit in its Members’ Gallery that celebrates the beauty and mystery of Italy. Indelebile Italia is part of the Museum’s annual commemoration of Italian Heritage Month in October.
Indelebile Italia photographer and curator Giselle Valdes has been exhibiting her work since 1982. Her images for this show feature the cityscapes, churches and historic buildings, Renaissance sculpture and ancient ruins of Rome, Florence and Venice.
Photographs will be available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to fund future exhibitions at the West End Museum. The exhibit is sponsored by Gallery East.
Valdes lives in Fanwood, New Jersey and attended Boston University. She had her first photography exhibit in Boston in 1982 and moved to Jamaica in 1985, where she showed and sold her print work exclusively at Patoo Gallery in Kingston. Valdes has worked as a craftsman and metalsmith and upon her return to the States in 1990, she continued to create a large and diverse body of work while traveling through her job at Continental Airlines. This is the second photography exhibit she has curated at the West End Museum, the first of her own work.
Talk: The Housing Act of 1949 and Beyond: The Evolution of Urban Redevelopment in Boston
Tuesday, November 3rd, 6:30 pm
The West End Museum
Cost: Free and open to the public.
Dr. Alexander von Hoffman; author, senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies and lecturer at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University; will will present a timely examination of urban redevelopment in Boston, which complements the Museum’s current exhibit, Dewey Defeats Truman/The Housing Act of 1949. Dr. von Hoffman has published numerous articles on the subject of urban history and neighborhoods in the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times and Boston Globe in addition to authoring House by House, Block by Block: The Rebirth of America’s Urban Neighborhoods and Local Attachments: The Making of an American Urban Neighborhood, 1850 to 1920. His current project is a history of low-income housing policy in the United States.
Registration is required.