On February 17th, our class visited the Emily Dickinson exhibit at the Morgan Library. Held in a single, small room, the space felt a little cramped and contained- much like Dickinson herself. I felt that it was difficult to closely examine every manuscript and photograph with a large group, and that I would have gotten more out of it as a solo visitor.
There were many allusions to her two personalities: the social and the recluse. Our docent made it a point to showcase her lesser known, gregarious side. While studying at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, Emily had a close-knit group of friends with whom she regularly exchanged letters. Although writing is not typically thought of as social, Dickinson’s sharing of tidbits of information are not much different from what we now call “social media”.
One thing that helped to liven the space was the arrangements of flowers- the rose wallpaper that was meant to resemble the wallpaper in her room, the herbarium, and the single White Indian Pipe flower. I found it particularly interesting and somewhat ironic that Dickinson’s favorite flower was one that is white when alive, and black when dead. Contrarily, Dickinson seemed most “alive” when thinking about death. Once she became a recluse, her “dark” feelings gave her “light”- in fact, she composed the majority of her poems while locked in her room. Overall, I thought the show was curated well and was not lacking in any objects. Seeing as there is limited information on Dickinson’s life, the show included as many artifacts as possible without presenting the same narrative over and over. The curator(s) took care to show Dickinson’s many sides and the lasting impact of her work.