Emily Dickinson could never have imagined the global sensation she would one day become. The world she lived in in the 19th century revolved around Amherst, even when her friend Samuel Bowles, publisher of the Springfield Republican, shared her work in what was then New England’s most influential newspaper.
The Emily Dickinson Museum will tell you that these pandemic years of the 21st century have only seen the poet’s interest and impact grow by leaps and bounds in a virtual world.
Today, thanks to a generous donation, the museum is working to give Dickinson enthusiasts a chance to better appreciate what the 19th-century poet meant to American literature and culture.
John and Elizabeth Armstrong donated $600,000 to help rebuild a carriage house that once stood on the Dickinson family property in Amherst. The replicated structure, which will be recreated based on archaeological evidence, is part of a long-term plan to present “authentic places” in which visitors can best learn about the Beauty of Amherst.
In a fast-paced, fast-paced, digitally driven modern world, it is becoming all too easy to relegate these intellectual giants of previous centuries to a neglected, if not forgotten, past.
The museum prevents that from happening with Dickinson, whose stature far exceeds what she enjoyed in her lifetime. She’s too important to forget, as proven by the three-year run of the critically acclaimed Apple TV+ series, “Dickinson,” which honored the poet’s modern relevance.
Museums and historic sites surviving today are learning to combine the old with the new. It’s a delicate balance. In an industry whose foundation is based on artifacts, there is always a need to add virtual access, interactive features, online tours and other technological advancements.
It is clear that the museum intends to find new and innovative ways to present the work of its muse to the public. No historic site serves its purpose unless people enjoy it. The rebuilt coach house is an important first step in providing another of many reasons to visit for tourists, poetry lovers and others.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t share some of Emily’s own words from her rather isolated world, an apt stanza from one of her poems:
I am no one! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
So we are two!
Do not tell ! they would advertise – you know!