Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Baltimore Poe House Update

News just found its way to me via Facebook, and now the Baltimore Sun Times is reporting it as well: the Poe house in Baltimore--recently shuttered due to financial struggles within the city's tightening budget--has been vandalized.  Its steps were stolen shortly after it closed and now the house has seen other acts of vandalism. 

While, I understand all the reasons why a city has to chose to take care of its citizens in hard times before it can prioritize historic properties, I worry that the plans to reopen the house may be moot if the house is not secured. 

How can we manage historic properties in seriously distressed areas?  How can we steward museums in neighborhoods and cities that are in dire straights?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another Lost House? Poe's Baltimore House

Poe's Baltimore house museum has been closed.  The Baltimore Sun Times and other sources, indicate that the house will reopen under "new management."   I'm reporting this new quite late in the game, but I am stunned that the City of Baltimore has shuttered the home without a concrete plan in place to reopen it.  It's rare that house museums reopen after a period of financial duress, but I hope this precedent does not apply.

The long-time director there, Jeff Jerome, came to Philadelphia in 2009 and participated in a great event sponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia: THE GREAT POE DEBATE. (You can listen to the pod-cast here, although I have to warn you this was a spectacle sport and some of it doesn't transfer to plain audio). At the debate, Poe aficionados duked it out over which city had the right to "claim" Poe.  It was both absolutely hilarious and touching.  I attended and dragged Seth, who admitted it was a great time; I was sore from laughing.  There is a great uproarious spirit in these people who love Edgar Allan Poe and who work to preserve his historic sites.
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Kate Henry, here at Temple, who is currently thinking about Poe and Philadelphia--how his time here influenced his writing and what this might mean as we seek to understand him, his writing, and history of Philadelphia.  And I have a number of students who are writing about the Poe House this semester.

I have to think, if we didn't have the NPS Poe National Historic Site, it would be harder for us to "see" Poe here in Philly.  Poe was impoverished much of his life.  He lived in several houses other than the one that the Park Service has preserved, but, as far as I know, none of them are extant. We largely remember Poe here, because of the fact--the presence--of this house.

Now with the looming "fiscal cliff," I'm worried about the Park Service's ability to keep all of its Philadelphia sites up and running.  It's much more likely that this Poe house would be shuttered than many of the other sites that make up the Independence National Historical Park system.  And once again, I find myself wishing that the National Parks had been a much larger part of the the recent stimulus efforts--and that local sites like the Poe house in Baltimore had been too.  The CCC, during the Great Depression, insured that we have many of these sites today, and without Federal investment--through the creation of jobs that both teach us how to preserve and do the work of preservation--it's likely we'll see more such sites closed before the economy ticks back up enough to create the revenue that local governments need to keep these sites open.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Literary Philadelphia

With the help of my honors class at Temple this semester, I'm finally returning more concretely to Literary Philadelphia!  Toward first steps in mapping Philadelphia's literary heritage, we have this humble Google map.  I've just begun to plot a few known sites, but some of Philadelphia's most traditionally recognized literary minds aren't quite mapped or easily mappable quite yet.  Among the missing are George Lippard, Christopher Morley, Charles Brockden Brown, and Robert Montgomery Bird, and many others. 

On the left is an image from the City Archives of the Edgar Allan Poe house from sometime before the house came under the City of Philadelphia and before the City donated the house to the National Park Service.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mark Twain's Homes and Literary Tourism

My book Mark Twain's Homes and Literary Tourism is out!  You can find the publisher's description of it here.

If you are in the area, I'll be speaking at Elmira College on October 3rd, 2012 on "Mark Twain’s Homes and Haunts: Mark Twain Museums and Public History." As part of their Trouble Begins at Eight series, I'll be at the Quarry Farm Barn, which is part of the farm where Mark Twain spent many summers with his family and writing.  It's the perfect place to think about Mark Twain and Public History.