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News & Notes

Notes on House Museums  from Danna D'Esopo Jackson

House museums seem to be in retreat, as they are overtaken and absorbed into larger, glitzier operations.  A recent casualty of this trend is the Thornton W. Burgess Museum in Sandwich, Mass., which has been merged into a nature conservancy group and a fund-raising "jam kitchen".  Lost in these activities is Burgess's anthropomorphized animal stories that were anthologized and syndicated on "childrens pages", i.e., the comics pages, in newspapers.

Among the most successful childrens authors and illustrators is Tasha Tudor, who molded a public persona around the 19th century agrarian culture described in her books.  She adopted the life style she wrote about, wearing period clothes and doing farm chores, and her home, Corgi Cottage, in Marlboro, Vt. is a house museum, surrounded by her lush gardens.

On the upper end of the economic scale, is Edith Wharton's elegant mansion The Mount, in Lenox, Mass.  When Wharton moved to Paris all of the furnishings were sold, so the sparsely-furnished rooms have little resemblance to the photos of how it looked when she lived there, surrounded by a clutter of 19th century bric-a-brac.

A house museum with grim literary associations is The Witch House in Salem, Mass., made infamous by the witch trials presided over by Judge Hathorne, Nathaniel Hawthorne's great-great-grandfather, and by Hawthorn's novel The House of Seven Gables.

How about some others...

Danna D'Esopo Jackson
Between The Lines Books
betweenl@bluemarble.net

Hobart Book Village

Hay-on-Wye established itself as the first book town in the world and remains the most famous thanks to the pioneering efforts and promotional talents of Richard Booth.  Other rural villages have tried to emulate that model but except for Wigtown in Scotland and Hobart in New York's Catskills, few have had lasting success.  Book towns are essentially cooperative efforts and the fact that many have been launched to great fanfare and later faded to oblivion points out the obvious – initial passion needs to be sustained by dedication and hard work.  One success that was featured in the Guardian delves into the interesting back story about how the Hobart Book Village came to be and how, after more than 10 years, it continues to thrive.  The village was also recently featured on the NBC morning television program Today – if you didn't view the piece when it aired on April 23rd, we have provided a convenient link so you can have a look.