Emily Dickinson’s 188th birthday celebration

A day of history, poetry and giving at the Emily Dickinson Museum

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Emily Dickinson’s 188th birthday celebration

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

By Alyssa Mahoney, Collegian Correspondent

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As an annual tradition, guests explored at their leisure the Emily Dickinson Museum consisting of the Dickinson Homestead and the Evergreens with the direction of tour guides in Amherst on Saturday. The celebration of Dickinson’s 188th birthday highlighted her experiences and followed her life at her family’s homestead as she became one of America’s most well-known poets.

The first part of the tour began at the Dickinson Homestead where artifacts including books, letters, photographs and antiques were on display for guests, along with a brief history of the items.

As guests ventured through the house, tour guides were readily available to discuss the history of Dickinson’s bedroom, the Dickinson family library, Dickinson’s father Edward Dickinson’s hand-built greenhouse he made for his daughters and other historic areas of the house.

According to tour guide Linda Smith, Dickinson helped to maintain her father’s greenhouse since she “also drew inspiration in her writing from nature.”

The festivities of the celebration extended to letter-writing stations in Emily Dickinson’s sister’s supposed bedroom, according to a guide of the Emily Dickinson Museum at the Homestead, Burleigh Mutén.

Guests could enjoy writing and designing letters to friends, relatives or patients at the Center For Extended Care at Amherst, drawing inspiration from Dickinson’s passion for letter writing, as stated by Mutén.

“Over her lifetime, Emily Dickinson wrote to over 100 people, mainly friends and relatives. Some scholars theorized that she composed around 10,000 letters over the course of her intense writing,” Mutén said.

Guide and Museum Assistant Anna Plummer also discussed Dickinson’s love for writing as she would write on envelopes or chocolate wrappers when inspiration arose.

Other events that occurred in the Dickinson homestead included readings of Helen Hunt Jackson’s “A Christmas-Tree for Cats” from “Bits of Talk, in Verse and Prose, for Young Folks,”and a library display consisting of Dickinson household gift-giving traditions.

A pop-up exhibition of artist Nancy Meagher’s paintings was also shown in the Homestead as she was inspired by the structure of the Dickinson’s houses.

Guests could also enjoy the holiday decorations, listen to violin music playing and try the remade coconut cake recipe Dickinson made as the family baker.

After touring the Homestead, many guests ventured to the Evergreens, the home of Emily Dickinson’s brother William Austin Dickinson. Tours of the house continued, followed by live piano music.

The celebration concluded as guests finished decorating their ornaments that included a final special birthday message to Emily Dickinson. These ornaments were hung on the tree at the Evergreens in honor of herself and her impact on American poetry.

Alyssa can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @amahoneyjournal.