Museum News


Tie the Knot in the Enchanted Garden!


The Enchanted Garden at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum is covered in snow as we write this, but soon Spring flowers will bring this lovely space to life, and with it, love will blossom too in the form of 15 planned weddings so far this year.

“You have weddings, at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum?” you might ask with wonder.  Yes, definitely yes!  We do!

The engagement season has been in full swing since December, and we are getting more interest in the Enchanted Garden as a wedding site than ever before.  Why is this?  Brides tell us they are drawn to the garden because of its intimate setting, as well as its quirky and historic background.  The bounty of nature and lovely plantings makes it even more desirable as a venue for that most special and lovely event in a bride or groom’s life. In these tight budget times, it is one of the most affordable spaces to host a wedding in Richmond.

So what do you get when you chose the Poe Museum as your wedding site?  For starters, you get the satisfaction of knowing you are creating a memorable experience for you and your guests.  As history goes, it is hard to beat the site itself, in business as a cultural center of Richmond since 1922.  As the only literary museum in the state of Virginia, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum has a sense of sophistication and an ambiance that you look for in a wedding site.  It is ideal for ceremonies and receptions, and our Bookings Coordinator Amber Edens will be glad to assist you in making arrangements for all the details that will make your wedding day a big success.  Call or email Amber Edens today to begin the joyful process that ends with the two simple words, “I do!”

You can contact Amber at:
amber@poemuseum.org  or  (804) 648-5523

Tours of the garden available Friday-Sunday 12pm-5pm by appointment.




Monumental Good Time with Poe Foundation on 11/23!


Join the Poe Museum’s members embers as they explore Richmond’s historic Monumental Church at noon on Saturday, November 23rd.  Getting a private tour of this Robert Mills designed landmark is rare, and members will be allowed to explore all floors (including the crypt below the sanctuary).  You can sit where young Edgar Allan Poe sat with his foster mother Frances Allan, and see pews where other famous Richmonders sat as well. Since it is a weekend, you can park off of Broad across the street from Monumental in the parking marked for VDOT employees. Contact the Poe Museum today if you have not made your reservations at (804) 648-5523 or email Amber Edens at amber@poemuseum.org.  Not a member? Join today by clicking this link.  

Also going on that day is another exciting open house at Mason’s Hall here in our own Shockoe Bottom at 1807 East Franklin Street.  The building was constructed in 1785, and was the Masonic Hall where luminaries like Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall attended.  It is also reportedly where Eliza Poe, Edgar’s mother, entertained a delighted Richmond audience in her day.  It is the oldest continuously used Masonic lodge in the country.  It is known as the Randolph Lodge, and was chartered in October of 1787.  

While you are in the neighborhood, drop by and see us at the Poe Museum!  We have great holiday gift ideas and stocking stuffing ideas in the gift shop, and offer guided tours at 11, 1 and 3.  What an excellent way to kick off Thanksgiving week!




Annemarie Beebe Named New President of Poe Foundation


POE MUSEUM ANNOUNCES NEW BOARD PRESIDENT

The Poe Foundation of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum of Richmond, Virginia is proud to announce the election of its new board president, Annemarie Weathers Beebe of South Carolina. The Executive Director of Historic Rock Hill, Mrs. Beebe follows in a long line of distinguished Poe Foundation presidents including two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Dr. Douglas Southall Freeman and Edgar™ Award-winner Dr. Harry Lee Poe.

Assuming the position of Vice President is Dr. M. Thomas Inge. Serving a second term as Treasurer will be Jeffrey Chapman. Serving his first term as Secretary will be Robert A. Buerlein. The Poe Foundation’s executive committee will also consist of Past President Harry Lee Poe, Kassie Ann Olgas, Kia Ware, and Benjamin A.P. Warthen. The officers and executive committee were elected at the Poe Foundation biannual board meeting on October 5, 2013.

More Information about Edgar Allan Poe:
Edgar Allan Poe is the internationally influential author of such tales of “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Black Cat.” He is credited with inventing the mystery genre as well as with pioneering both the modern horror story and science fiction. Poe died under mysterious circumstances at the age of forty. Although much of his life is known through contemporary documents, some areas of his life remain shrouded in mystery.

Opened in 1922, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum of Richmond is the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe artifacts and memorabilia. The five-building complex features permanent exhibits of Poe’s manuscripts, personal items, clothing, and a lock of the author’s hair. The Poe Museum’s mission is to interpret the life and influence of Edgar Allan Poe for a global audience. Edgar Allan Poe is America’s first internationally influential author, the inventor of the detective story, and the forerunner of science fiction; but he primarily considered himself a poet. His poems “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” and “The Bells” are classics of world literature.

For more information, contact Chris Semtner at the Poe Museum by email or call 888-21-EAPOE. More information and a complete list of Poe-related activities can be found here.




Poe Museum launches campaign to save endangered illustrations for “The Raven”


Kickstarter project has goal of $60,000 in 45 days

Richmond, Va. – Today the Edgar Allan Poe Museum launched a campaign to raise $60,000 through Kickstarter to preserve, prepare and publish a book of James Carlings’ original illustrations for “The Raven.” Dating to the 1880s, these original illustrations were named one of “Virginia’s Top 10 Most Endangered Artifacts” by the Virginia Association of Museums. Donations will be received until November 15 through the Kickstarter website (bit.ly/jcarling). If the entire $60,000 is not raised, the Poe Museum will receive no funding from the campaign.

“The Carling illustrations are a true piece of Poe history and have been an important part of the museum since the 1930s,” said Chris Semtner, curator, Edgar Allan Poe Museum. “For 40 years these illustrations were a fixture in the museum’s Raven Room and now due to their deteriorating condition, we are unable to display them.”

If the goal is met, the funds will be used to prepare and publish a book containing all 43 of Carlings’ original illustrations. In addition, a portion of the funds will be used to carefully conserve each illustration and create a traveling exhibit. Semtner explained that the existing paper on which the illustrations were drawn is glued to acidic cardboard causing it to darken and deteriorate.

The artist, James Carling, is the earliest and first “pavement artist” whose life has been fully documented. His illustrations for “The Raven” are his largest body of work and only known set of illustrations. Carling billed himself as the “fastest drawer in the world” and the “lightning caricaturist.”

“The Poe Museum has been given the responsibility to preserve, promote and publish Carlings’ masterpiece,” says Semtner. “We have reached out through Kickstarter to raise the money to publish these pieces in full color, promote them by creating exhibits to travel to museums and to preserve them for the enjoyment of future generations.”

For more information, visit bit.ly/jcarling PoeMuseum.org and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.




Help the Poe Museum Win the Amazing Raise


Do you love a good book? Do you want to help a new generation of readers share your love of literature? Here’s something you can do about it:

For the next day and a half the Poe Museum will be competing in the Amazing Raise, a 36-hour challenge in which Central Virginia non-profits try to see how many donations they can collect between 6 A.M. on September 18 and 6 P.M. on September 19. And you can help. Your donation of $50 or more helps the Poe Museum compete for thousands of dollars in bonus prizes, so even a small gift can make a big difference.

Why support the Poe Museum? First, you will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a print of one of Abigail Larson’s fantastic Poe illustrations from our gift shop. Second, your donation will help the Poe Museum foster a love or reading and writing in future generations. For over ninety years the Poe Museum has been an invaluable resource to teachers and students around the globe. Through our educational programs, website, and educator information packet, we support teachers in their efforts to both educate and inspire their students.

What will we do with your gift? Fifty dollars pays for enough tour guides to give a guided tour for one hundred students. One hundred dollars buys the latest books for our ever expanding reference library. Two hundred dollars pays for us to have more Educator Information Packets printed. Five hundred dollars pays for plaster repair for one of our exhibit galleries. One thousand dollars helps conserve a small painting. Five thousand dollars buys a new heat pump for one of our buildings. Eight thousand dollars pays the expenses associated with our annual Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference.

If you believe in the work the Poe Museum is doing, please consider making a donation today using this form. If you are reaching this page after the competition has ended, you can still contribute to the Poe Museum here.




Poe Museum Launches First i-Phone App


The Poe Museum has just launched its first i-phone app, an interactive guided tour of the Poe Museum complex and collections that can be run on iPhones, iPads and iPods that have iOS 6+. Whether users visit the museum in person or remotely through this app, they will have an opportunity to explore Poe’s life and literary career through 29 objects in the museum’s world renowned collection. Guests of the museum can use the app as an audio guide featuring museum maps, photos of the artifacts, readings of Poe’s poems and letters, as well as extra information about each object’s provenance and significance.

The Tour has been developed on the MustSee mobile audio guide application. The MustSee app is free to use and can be downloaded from iTunes here. The Poe Museum Self Guided Tour costs 99 cents as an in-app purchase. To get to the audio guide, download the MustSee app and then come back here and tap on the big logo on this page.

The MustSee platform is a mobile guide community platform where organizations and individuals can create guides and set their own price. It includes an iOS application and a website where creators can design and upload their own personalized guides. Current guide developers — including museums, cultural institutions, tour guides and travel companies as well as cultural enthusiasts — are able to create interactive art and travel guides with the MustSee app. App users can find guides created by either professionally, like the Poe Museum’s, or by other users with common interests. Guides are based on the places and items located there and may include audio, text, photos and links to web pages or videos. Guide users can download them directly to their device and can interact with the community of like-minded users by commenting, adding photos, rating and sharing on their email, Facebook and Twitter.

“Many museums have trouble being found by their respective audiences. MustSee provides the Poe Museum to be able to easily create an interactive, audio guide tour for their visitors while exposing the guide to a bigger audience of culture and literary learners,” said John Soppe, CEO of Areté Media, producers of MustSee. “We are providing a free platform to help those institutions and individuals create high quality experiences that will enrich the lives for the MustSee audience.” The price of the app is shared by Apple, the Poe Museum, and MustSee.

If you do not have an i-phone or i-pad, you can still download our audio tour here.




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Help the Poe Museum Win the Amazing Raise


Do you love literature and want to instill a love of reading and writing in future generations? Here’s something you can do today to help the Poe Museum cultivate that love of the written word for years to come: From 6 A.M. on September 19 until 6 P.M. on September 20, the Poe Museum is participating in the Amazing Raise, a great fundraising opportunity and competition for non-profits in the Greater Richmond area. Each organization in the Amazing Raise competes to get the most donors to contribute to their organization during the 36-hour period. In addition to receiving these donations, each organization also competes for prizes offered by the Community Foundation of Greater Richmond. These prizes include bonuses for the highest number of donations, the organization with the first 50 unique donations, the organization which gets the donation closest to sunset, and the longest distance donation. The donation form is located below, and you can also find it on the Community Foundation’s website.

Why help the Poe Museum?
Especially in today’s very competitive academic and professional environments, excellent written and oral communication skills are a necessity, but many students have difficulty in these disciplines because they lack interest in reading comprehension and writing. Many teachers tell us they struggle to convince their students to read—until they study Poe. Very often, Poe’s works are the first that students actually enjoy reading. As such, his works provide the perfect opportunity for educators to inspire a life-long love of reading in their students. Regrettably, these same educators have little time to focus on researching any individual author while trying to cover as many writers as possible in an effort to meet the requirements of standardized tests. That is where the Poe Museum can help. By providing guided tours, teleconference programs, off-site educational programs, educator information packets, educator workshops, and a website full of accurate information on Poe’s life and work, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum has become an invaluable aid to both teachers and students. By offering a multidisciplinary approach to interpreting literature, the Poe Museum’s programs address the standards of learning in a number of different disciplines including English, History, Art, and Science. For these reasons, the Poe Museum has become a trusted resource for educators around the globe. Just last week, we hosted a guided tour for a German group and sent educator information packets to teachers in 21 different states as well as educators in the Dominican Republic and Canada. In the month ahead, we will host tours for thousands of students and travel to sites throughout Virginia and Maryland to conduct off-site programs.

As the Poe Museum enters its ninety-first year, it faces new challenges. With corporate and local government support on the decline, expenses are on the increase. Rather than pass those expenses on to the already cash-strapped schools, the Poe Museum is seeking the support of those who believe in the importance of the Poe Museum’s mission. We hope we can count on your support today. Even a small donation can make a big difference. For more information, you can view the Poe Museum’s profile here, or you can visit our website.




Weird Richmond #5 – Egypt Mania


Ancient Egypt has long been of great fascination to the world, capturing the imaginations of everyone from the Greeks who conquered Egypt in 332 BC, all the way to people of our own time. Much of the ancient civilization’s culture is preserved in the monumental temples and pyramids, the cryptic hieroglyphics, and of course in the elaborate burials and mummifications that became the hallmark of Egypt. While the interest in Ancient Egypt continues on, it was perhaps at its most fervent in the Victorian era. Discoveries such as the Rosetta Stone by the French in 1799 made it possible for scholars to finally translate the hieroglyphics that had stumped them for centuries, and created an intense interest in this formerly mysterious culture.

It was with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and the discovery of the Rosetta Stone that the discipline of Egyptology was born. The publication of the essay Description de l’Égypte (1809-1829) officially made the study an academic discipline. Soon, historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists alike flocked to Egypt to excavate the tombs and study what was inscribed on the walls of its temples and other landmarks. Many of these excavations yielded crypts of pharaohs richly adorned with gold, jewels, and mummies, many of which were taken back to Europe to be put on display in museums. The people of the Victorian age came in droves to see these mummies, which both delighted and terrified them. There were even mummy unwrapping parties, which guests could attend and watch as the linen wrappings were peeled back to reveal the embalmed body inside. When Poe was fourteen, there was even a mummy on public display in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol in Richmond.

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An Invitation to a Mummy Unwrapping Party

Poe wrote a satirical critique of this fascination with mummies entitled “Some Words With a Mummy” (published in 1845). The story is a commentary on the treatment of the artifacts of Ancient Egypt, particularly the mummies. Once back in Europe, many mummies were damaged or destroyed in the name of science by dissections and examinations, and others were stolen from their tombs by grave robbers to be ground into a powder which was thought to have medicinal properties. Poe’s mummy, Allamistakeo, admonishes his examiners on their treatment of him, showing the author’s view on the Egypt Mania and the disrespect of the tombs that had overtaken the Victorian era.

At the same time as the publication of “Some Words With a Mummy”, the Egyptian Building was being constructed to house the Medical College of Virginia here in Richmond. Designed by architect Thomas W. Stewart, the building is in the Egyptian Revival style and brings to mind the colossal temples that dot the Nile Valley. The choice to make the building very Egyptian in appearance may coincide with the Egypt Mania of the time, or perhaps ally the medical campus with Imhotep, the Egyptian priest who is thought to have been the first physician. The building became a national landmark in 1969, and is a treasured part of the MCV campus today. It has been in continual use since 1845, and houses an auditorium and classrooms.

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The MCV Egyptian Building




Weird Richmond #4 – Victorian Dentistry


A 19th century sign advertising tooth extraction

Let’s face it: no one likes a trip to the dentist. The mere thought of a root canal is enough to make us cringe and that high-pitched whir of the dentist’s drill is more than enough to send a shiver up our spines. While the modern day dentist’s office may be a far cry from a walk in the park, dentistry in the Victorian era was even more cringe-worthy. While dental practices were experiencing a renaissance from the 18th century, they were still a far cry from modern dentistry. Without electricity or numbing agents like Novocain, going to the dentist was the definition of pain. The mere thought of tooth extraction was so horrifying that Poe utilized it in his lesser-known tale “Berenice.”

A Victorian foot-powered dentist's drill

The Victorian era dentist did not have an office separate from his home –his home was his office. Dentists were also extremely expensive, meaning only the affluent families could afford to pay a visit. The dentist would reuse his instruments instead of replacing them after every visit, and at the most give them a perfunctory wipe-down between appointments (this was an era before sterilization). The most infamous dentist tool, the drill, was powered manually by a foot pedal that the dentist had to pump furiously in order to generate enough power to use it. Because of this, what we know as preventative dentistry today did not exist; the one-stop cure for all dental maladies was tooth extraction.

Towards the latter half of the 19th century, dentists began using ether and chloroform to anesthetize their patients. These gases would render the patient unconscious, but only for a brief period of time. A dentist thus had to work very quickly to extract the tooth (or teeth) before the gas would wear off and the patient would wake up.

Tooth Keys: Corkscrews for tooth extraction

Because of the high number of tooth extractions happening in dentistry, dentures became a way of remedying the lack of teeth in one’s mouth. These dentures were not custom-made and often were one-size fits all, meaning that they were extremely uncomfortable to wear. While George Washington’s dentures are by far the most famous dentures in American history, they were not made of wood. Fake teeth at the time were made from ivory taken from hippopotamus teeth or elephant tusks. Or, if you had a doctor who dealt in the black market, your teeth had a much more sinister place of origin; grave robbers could be paid off to dig up corpses and remove their teeth to be used in dentures.




Weird Richmond #3 – The Church Hill Tunnel Collapse


Three years after the Edgar Allan Poe Museum opened its doors in 1922, tragedy befell the city of Richmond in the Church Hill area when the train tunnel beneath what is now Jefferson Park collapsed, killing four people and burying a train engine beneath the hill. Although the bodies of one worker and the conductor were recovered, the locomotive and the remains of two workers are still trapped under the earth.

Completed in 1875 to connect the C&O Railroad to the Shockoe area, the Church Hill train tunnel had a history of structural problems. Because the soil contained a high clay content, the ground which the tunnel was built through retained a large amount of groundwater after rain, making the tunnel structurally unsound. During its initial construction, ten workers were reportedly killed due to collapses. Because of this instability, the tunnel fell into disuse after the construction of the river viaduct, and would be unused for twenty years.

In 1925, efforts were made to restore the tunnel to a useable condition to increase railroad capacity in the city. It was during these repairs that the western end of the tunnel would collapse on October 2nd, trapping six people, Train Engine #231, and ten flat cars beneath the hill. Two workers managed to crawl out to the eastern end beneath the flat cars; by the time rescue teams managed to dig to the engine, they discovered the bodies of the conductor and one other worker. Due to the tunnel’s instability, however, the bodies of the two remaining workers were never recovered. The Virginia State Corporation Commission ordered the tunnel sealed to prevent others from being trapped in subsequent cave-ins. The train locomotive and the cars are still there today.

Even after the tunnel was sealed, it continued to be a problem for the Church Hill area, collapsing in various other locations and creating sinkholes. In 2006, the Virginia Historical Society drilled a hole through the tunnel seal and used a camera to look inside and see if there was any way to recover the lost train engine. The tunnel was discovered to be full of water and silt, and any attempts to open the tunnel would inevitably result in further sinkholes developing in Church Hill.

The sealed western end of the tunnel lies mere blocks away from the Poe Museum at 18th and Marshall Streets, and can be visited by the public.