The Evergreens house is ready for its closeup after preservation work at Emily Dickinson Museum
|Published: 02-09-2024 12:51 PM
AMHERST — Closed since 2019 for extensive preservation efforts and infrastructure improvements, The Evergreens, a key property at the Emily Dickinson Museum, will reopen for visitors March 1.
The 19th-century house was built in 1856 for Austin Dickinson, the famous poet’s brother, and his family and became an important part of the extended Dickinson family’s life. In turn, the family’s connections served a key role in Emily Dickinson’s poetry, the posthumous publication of her verse, and the establishment of her legacy.
Museum officials say The Evergreens remains largely unaltered since the years when Emily Dickinson’s family lived here, “a time capsule” still filled with furniture, household items, and decor selected and displayed by the family during the 19th century.
Over the last five years, the museum, using grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, completed a number of projects designed to reduce energy consumption at The Evergreens, while also adding a “museum-grade” HVAC system for maintaining temperature and humidity levels that help preserve sensitive collections and objects.
Those efforts took place alongside significant preservation and restoration work done at The Homestead, the house where Emily Dickinson, her sister, and her mother and father lived. As part of that work, replicas and recreations of the original decor were added, as much of the original furnishing disappeared during the 20th century, while structural changes were also made to the house.
“The Evergreens is an extraordinary house, unusually preserved, and steeped in the histories of the Dickinson family and the town of Amherst,” Jane Wald, executive director of the Dickinson Museum, said in a statement.
Brooke Steinhauser, senior director of programs at the museum, said the preserved state of The Evergreens will give visitors a greater understanding “not just of [Emily Dickinson’s] daily inspiration stemming from these family relationships, but also the remarkable way her poetry came to the world posthumously.”
As the museum notes, Austin Dickinson and his wife, Susan, lived at The Evergreens until their deaths in 1895 and 1913, respectively. Their one surviving child, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, who edited numerous collections of her aunt’s poetry and wrote biographical works about her in the 1920 and 1930s, lived in the house until her death in 1943, preserving it without change.
Bianchi’s heirs — co-editor Alfred Leete Hampson, and later his widow, Mary Landis Hampson — recognized the historical and literary significance of the site and sought ways to ensure the preservation of The Evergreens as a cultural resource, the museum says.
Beginning March 1, the Emily Dickinson Museum will be open Wednesday-Sunday, from 10 a.m, to 5 p.m., and tickets will be good for both The Evergreens and The Homestead. To order in advance, visit emilydickinsonmuseum.org.
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