She Dwells In Amherst

Stephanie Kupiec ’15
Contributing Writer 

The myth of Amherst, the goddess of American poetry: Emily Dickinson’s legacy lives on in the Emily Dickinson Museum located conveniently in Amherst, right by the Amherst College campus. Smithies, do you realize that the Emily Dickinson Homestead is open for your enjoyment, free of charge? In fact, not only are you privileged with free admittance to the Dickinson Homestead, but students of the Five College system can also enjoy free access to interesting, in-depth tours that guide your group through The Homestead and into brother Austin Dickinson’s house, The Evergreens. This is exactly what a couple of my fellow housemates and I did this past weekend.

Born at The Homestead in 1830, Emily Dickinson lived on to become perhaps the most influential female poet in American history. Although her personal life is shrouded in mystery, her family history is abundant in the Amherst area, as her parents, friends and other relatives led their own distinguished, influential lives. Her grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, was a contributing founder of Amherst College, and her father, brother and sister-in-law also led fascinating lives; in particular, Dickinson’s sister-in-law, Susan, held numerous parties with such notable guests as Ralph Waldo Emerson.

There are two tours available to students at the museum, one lasting 45 minutes, the other lasting 90 (recommended). The 90-minute bit allows guests to travel through the entire Dickinson Homestead and carry on next door to visit The Evergreens. The Dickinson Homestead, still in need of gracious donors for funding, is currently working on recreating and preserving what Emily Dickinson’s house would have looked like during her lifetime. Currently, it is an especially exciting time to visit, as the museum is funding a complete revamping of Emily Dickinson’s room -there is even a small corner of wallpaper left from when Dickinson inhabited the house-. Upon leaving The Homestead, the tour continues into The Evergreens via a pathway “just big enough for two in love.” The Evergreens architecture and interior style contrasts with that of The Homestead, and museum visitors have a chance to appreciate the scene for social gatherings in the Dickinson family. Among various 19th-century furniture and replicas, there are also various paintings and other works of art on display.

Museum lover and spirited adventurer Sarah Liggera ’17 recounted their recent visit to the Dickinson museum as “interesting, fun and inspirational.” A fantastic poet themself, Sarah especially “appreciated the tour guide’s captivating accounts of Dickinson’s poetry;” the tour includes a demonstration on how Dickinson recorded her thousands of poems on scraps of paper or the backs of chocolate wrappers. “It’s a great chance to appreciate what life may have been like for Emily Dickinson in 19th-century Amherst,” said Liggera. “There are plenty of things that I wasn’t formally aware of, like Emily’s sincere appreciation for botany, or that Emily Dickinson’s family had such a social influence on the town of Amherst. This museum is definitely a must-see for every Emily Dickinson fan.” The Emily Dickinson Museum is open each year from March to December, with current hours of 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays.

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