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A Glimpse Into Greenbelt's Past

The Museum House offers residents insight on life in the early days of this state-of-the-art development.

It began with a video.

The grainy, 1980s-tinged, 10-minute video that droned on about the history of Greenbelt looked and sounded like a PBS throwaway piece and took me straight back to the elementary school-aged anxiety of fighting off A.D.D. before recess.

Luckily, Museum Director Megan Searing Young, assured me that a new video was near completion and included the often-ignored segregation issues from the early days of the town, which wasn't even mentioned in the first cut.

Rapidly-aging video aside, the information is good and Greenbelt's history is definitely worth sitting down to watch. The main attraction, the museum house at 10B Crescent Road, is furnished with appliances, furniture, household products and decorations from 1936-52.

I delightedly exclaimed, "Ooh, it looks the set of 'Mad Men!,'" which I know now is incorrect, as the A&E TV show takes place in the 1960s. That is what separates me from professionals like Megan.

The museum house boasts IKEA-like simple wooden furniture that can be used in a multitude of ways. While it doesn't take nearly as long to assemble and is much sturdier than its current trendy cousin, the furniture was just as popular, forcing young families to wait months for their pre-assembled living room sets, Megan told me.

Another draw to the home is the collection of original household products. From the originally packaged Ivory soap bars in the linen closet to the now archaic-looking electric beard trimmer in the bathroom, it's all true to the time period.

I know that many Old Greenbelt residents live in these historical homes, so they are used to the slotted crown molding near the ceiling that allows them to switch out decorations easily without putting holes in the walls and the fact that there seems to be a closet for everything (trash closet! How tidy!). But this is definitely a museum that other residents and non-residents alike should check out if they haven't already.

The museum house is open Sundays 1  p.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $3; adults 55 years and older pay $2; and children under 12 pay $1. Friends of the Greenbelt Museum are always free.

Be sure to check out the museum's Victory Garden and the exhibit across the street at the Community Center, "Green from the Start: A History of Gardening in Greenbelt," which will be located in the current gallery until November 2010 and will move to the space across the front desk at the Community Center until early 2012.

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