While in Edinburgh recently, I visited the Scottish Writers’ Museum. More about that in a subsequent blog. Today, I want to talk a bit about the phenomenon of writers museums in general. And I’d love to hear if you’ve been to any interesting ones.
When I started this blog, I had a feeling that great writers—dead or living—generally don’t receive the same level of attention as do other artists such as painters, sculptors, or actors. However, it does seem like the world is covered with small, out-of-the-way memorials to beloved authors and poets.
As I thought more about this, memories came back of childhood visits to the birthplace of Carl Sandburg in Galesburg, Illinois (a short drive from my grandmother’s house) and the house where Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Monterey, California. And when I was in London a couple of years ago, a friend took me to the Charles Dickens museum.
Like many writers’ memorials, these places are simply modest homes, and temporary ones at that. The Sandburg home I visited was his birthplace but not where he composed the poems that captivated our nation in the earlier years of the 20th century. Stevenson lived in Monterey for just under four months. And Dickens lived in the house we visited in London for only two years.
Gary travels extensively and writes for San Jose Metro. In particular, I enjoyed his piece entitled Magister Hesse, about how the Hermann Hesse Museum in Switzerland keeps the novelist’s spirit alive. You can also view his photo set of the nuseum on flickr. (Subscribe to Gary’s posts on Facebook and/or follow him on Twitter,@gary_singh, and Pinterest, garysingh, especially this pinboard about dead authors. Gary’s piece inspired me to search for places in the U.S. that honor American writers. And what I found surprised me.
Through Google, I found this wonderful website.
On their American Authors page, , you can find a listing of historical sites associated with our best-known writers. On the About page, you can learn more about the effort to establish a physical American Writers Museum:
Although there are many wonderful small museums that commemorate the lives of individual writers, almost unbelievably, there is not a single museum dedicated to the history of American literature and to American writers. Today, the American Writers Museum Foundation is addressing this profound omission through its commitment to establishing The American Writers Museum.™
I suppose it’s the same feeling we get at any historic site: it triggers our imaginations and memories on a deeper level. We “see” these historic figures at work and leisure. We try to connect the surroundings with what we know about them and their work in the hopes that we can understand both much better. And perhaps those of us that share a vocation or avocation with them feel some inspiration from sharing their space, even centuries later.
However, in the course of my research, I did read the blog of one writer who said that visiting such places is a wasted effort. Instead of strolling through an old house or graveyard, she argues, why don’t we spend the same amount of time reading (or re-reading) and sharing appreciation of the writer’s work? It’s an interesting question.
Photo credit: The Kindle Reader (A Young Girl Seated), after Renoir, Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com