Homestead in the snow

Major Restoration Project Launches

The Emily Dickinson Homestead embarks on the next phase of historic restoration. 
This project will restore more of the National Historic Landmark home of one of America’s greatest poets to its period of historic significance.

Homestead in the snow

(Amherst, MA, February 17, 2021) – The Emily Dickinson Museum is embarking on the most significant restoration project to date of the interior architectural features, finishes, and furnishings of the revered poet’s Homestead. The project will also address long-term stabilization with the introduction of new environmental regulating systems in both the Homestead, the historic birthplace and home of Emily Dickinson, and The Evergreens, the Italianate home of Emily’s brother Austin and beloved sister-in-law Susan Gilbert. This work is the first step in an ambitious long range vision that aims to establish the Museum as the premier center for the study and celebration of the life and work of Emily Dickinson.

The project launches at a time of renewed and growing interest in Emily Dickinson and the revolutionary poetic voice she honed from her home in Amherst. Hailed recently as the ‘Original Queen of Social Distancing’, Dickinson and her work have been particularly resonant this past year. New interpretations and citations include Apple TV+’s hit series Dickinson, the new Taylor Swift album Evermore, the intimate work of Nobel Prize winner Louise Glück, and the philanthropy of MacKenzie Scott. The Emily Dickinson Museum has also happily found itself at the center of this buzz, attracting thousands of individuals from nearly 70 countries to its Virtual Programs over the past 6 months alone.

Museum Executive Director Jane Wald says, “We’re of course thrilled with the recent wave of interest in Emily Dickinson, and particularly in the home so intimately connected to her work. The Museum is committed to providing visitors with an increasingly authentic experience of the homes and grounds inhabited by the Dickinson family, and this restoration will have a profound impact on that experience. It will not only triple the amount of restored space in the Homestead accessible to guests, but also add critical details to their understanding of Dickinson’s daily life, especially as we introduce exciting new programs and interpretive themes in the coming years as part of our long range plan.”

Wald indicated that the project is able to kick-off earlier than planned in part because of funding made available through the generosity of the late William McC. Vickery–a longtime board member and champion of the Museum–for just such ‘bricks and mortar’ projects, as well as the Board of Governors’ decision to take advantage of the Museum’s extended COVID-related closure. Construction will last through 2021. While closed for restoration, the Museum will continue to actively engage audiences around the world through its schedule of online programs (EmilyDickinsonMuseum.org/events-news).

The Restoration Plan
With funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, the Emily Dickinson Museum retained Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects to produce a Design Development Report for the original portion of the Homestead built by the poet’s grandfather in 1813. The Museum also retained historic decorative arts consultant Marylou Davis to research, recommend, and, in some cases, reproduce the finishes and decor of the nineteenth-century Homestead. With the completion of work described in these studies, the Homestead will be on its way to being fully restored to its period of mid-nineteenth century historical significance, as Emily Dickinson would have known it.
 
Previous restoration projects – Emily Dickinson’s bedroom, conservatory, family library, and heirloom orchard – have created for visitors dynamic and personal encounters with the poet’s world available nowhere else. This, in addition to the purchase of adjacent property on Triangle Street to house administrative staff, has begun to allow the Homestead to shed multiple functions and regain its authenticity as Emily Dickinson’s own home and creative space.
 
Hallways
Investigation of the hallways has yielded fragments of original period-specific wallpaper, which confirm that Emily Dickinson passed through corridors and open halls decorated in a colorful gothic stylized floral pattern. Paint analysis reveals the precise paint colors for the woodwork. Restoring their authentic nineteenth-century appearance on the first and second floors of the Homestead, will reinstate the largest canvasses portraying the atmosphere of the home.
 
Parlors
The restored parlors will recapture the essentials of the Dickinsons’ daily life and interests in music, needlework, reading, art, civic and business affairs, and entertaining. The rooms will be decorated, as reported by Emily Dickinson’s niece, in wallpaper “white with large figures” and a carpet woven with “a great basket of flowers, from which roses were spilling all over the floor to a border of more flowers at the edge.” They will be furnished with items acquired at the time of Edward and Emily Norcross Dickinson’s marriage in 1828, as well as those acquired to keep their home reasonably in step with fashion.
 
Northwest Chamber
The second-floor northwest chamber adjacent to Emily’s room, the space where her mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson, spent the last years of her life, will include the reproduction of wallpaper based on found fragments, removal of modern floorboards, furnishing with Dickinson family artifacts, among other details. The restored northwest chamber will illuminate nuanced family relationships and the significance of health and healthcare in Dickinson’s life.
 
Implementation of Environmental Regulating Systems
The Homestead and The Evergreens will be equipped with new heating and cooling systems that will provide the level of temperature and humidity control that historic house museums need to protect their collections. The new systems will replace aging and limited residential systems and will contribute to the Museum’s long-term preservation and stewardship goals. “With behind-the-scenes installation of mechanical systems taken care of,” said Wald, “we’ll be able to focus on the fascinating work of further restoration and educational programming.” 

Project Resources

For press-approved images, please visit: bit.ly/EDMRestorationPhotos
For additional images, please reach out to publicrelations@emilydickinsonmuseum.org
 
This project has been funded in part by the generous gift of the late William McC. Vickery (Amherst College ‘57) and in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
 
ABOUT THE EMILY DICKINSON MUSEUM
The Emily Dickinson Museum: The Homestead and The Evergreens is dedicated to sparking the imagination by amplifying Emily Dickinson’s revolutionary poetic voice from the place she called home.
 
Owned by the Trustees of Amherst College, the Emily Dickinson Museum is overseen by a separate Board of Governors and is responsible for raising its own operating and capital funding. 
 
The Emily Dickinson Museum is a member of Museums10, a collaboration of ten museums linked to the Five Colleges in the Pioneer Valley—Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Color-By-Numbers Craft

Color your own Emily Dickinson portrait by paint, crayon, or any media you can get your hands on!
Download here

Share your creation by tagging us on Facebook (@emily.dickinson.museum), Instagram (@emilydickinson.museum), or Twitter (@DickinsonMuseum).

 

Past Virtual Programs Archive

Missed an online program? No fear! Rewatch a selection of archived programs here.

Emily Dickinson 190th Birthday Celebration

December 10, 2020
An afternoon of fun including a team bake of Dickinson’s famous Black Cake, a make-at-home craft demo, music, an aerial journey over Amherst, screenings of videos from our “My Emily Dickinson” collecting project, special guests from Apple TV’s Dickinson, and finally the singing of the birthday song. 

Tell It Slant Poetry Festival 2020 

Behind the Scenes with Emily Dickinson at the Frost Library’s Special Collections
September 14, 12-1:15pm
A very special behind the scenes look at the holdings of Amherst College Frost Library’s Special Collections Head of Archives and Special Collections, Mike Kelly.

 

Black Lives and Black Poetics Matter: A Reading and Discussion curated by Faraday Publishing
September 17, 7:30pm
An evening of vibrant poetry and dialogue on the vitality and importance of Black Lives and Black Poetics in contemporary America. Moderated by Enzo Silon Surin, founder and director of Faraday Publishing, and featuring leading Black poets, scholars, and educators, including Dr. Tony Medina, Bonita Lee Penn, Lisa Pegram, and Dr. Shauna Morgan.

 

Franny Choi
September 18, 7-8:45pm
Festival headliner, Franny Choi, wraps up Open Mic night with a reading from her recently published book, Soft Science (Alice James Books, 2019), and selected newly written works. This recording began after the open mic concluded.

 

Festival Headliners Ada Limón and Jericho Brown with Music by Kimaya Diggs
September 19, 7pm
Singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs, brings you new original settings of Dickinson poems live from the poet’s bedroom, and headliners Ada Limón and Jericho Brown read from their work and discuss their poetic practice and inspiration.

 

Behind the Scenes with Emily Dickinson at the Jones Library’s Special Collections
September 20, 9-10:15am
A very special behind the scenes look at the holdings of the Jones Library’s Special Collections in Amherst, Massachusetts. Head of Special Collections, Cyndi Harbeson.

 

 

Amherst Arts Nights Virtual Readings

During the pandemic, the Emily Dickinson Museum is celebrating monthly Amherst Arts Night Plus with remote poetry readings every first Thursday at 6:30pm (EST).

December 2020
Featuring The Literacy Project. The Literacy Project provides adult basic education programs and opportunities that support participants to engage meaningfully and equitably in the economic, social, cultural and civic life of their communities. 

November 2020
“Emily Dickinson in Translation” – a presentation of multi-lingual readings and short discussions on the practice of translating Dickinson’s words, presented by the Translation Center of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Featuring Adalberto Müller and Marcel Riera i Bou.

October 2020
Readings from Rage Hezekiah, Brionne Janae, and Taylor Johnson. (content warning: some adult language throughout, sexuality at 15:15)

 

September 2020
Readings from Kathryn Holzman, Cheryl J. Fish, and Eileen P. Kennedy.

 

August 2020
Readings from Rebecca Hart Olander, Leah Umansky, and Omotara James.

 

July 2020
Readings from Michael Mercurio, Hannah Larrabee, and Nathan McClain.

 

June 2020
Readings from Eliza Brewer, Kalidas Shanti, Brenna Macaray, Kiera Alventosa, Anna Plummer, and Haoran Tong.

 

May 2020
Readings from Rosie McMahan, Rich Puchalsky, Marian Kent, Lanette Sweeney, Eileen P. Kennedy, Howie Faerstein, Brooks Robards, Linda Bratcher, Michael Favala Goldman, Lori Desrosiers.

 

 

Other Programs

Emily Dickinson’s Amherst College, December 4, 2020
A lively lunchtime talk about the impact of Amherst College on the life of poet Emily Dickinson.

Martha Ackmann Virtual Book Talk and Q&A, August 16, 2020
A virtual reading and Q&A with Martha Ackmann, author of the recently released These Fevered Days (W.W. Norton, 2020).

 

Summer in the Poet’s Garden with Marta McDowell, July 17, 2020
Marta McDowell, master gardener, landscape historian, and author of Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life takes viewers on a virtual stroll through the Homestead gardens.

 

Emily Dickinson Virtual Poetry Walk, May 15, 2020
A beloved annual tradition honoring the 134th anniversary of the poet’s death with readings of her poetry at historic sites around Amherst.

 

Join us for upcoming events.