For over a year, the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst has been closed to the public due to COVID-19. The museum will remain closed even longer to undergo a large renovation project. The goal is to not only restore the Dickinson family home but make it more historically accurate.  

In our continuing celebration of Women’s History Month, Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman visited the museum to see what will change, and how the legacy of Emily Dickinson has resonated a little more during the pandemic. 


Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: For over a year, the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst has been closed to the public due to COVID-19, and they’ll remain closed even longer to undergo a large renovation project. The goal is to not only restore the Dickinson family home, but also make it more historically accurate.

In our continuing celebration of Women’s History Month, Connecting Point’s, Ross Lipman visited the museum to see what will change and how the legacy of Emily Dickinson has resonated a little more over the past year during the pandemic.

Jane Wald, The Emily Dickinson Museum: Our final day last year was March 15th. Prior to the pandemic, we’d received a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to do some planning for future restoration of the homestead. Ultimately, we decided to go ahead with our restoration plan, understanding that we need to be close to the public for some some considerable time, and wanted to make the best use of that time.

Brooke Steinhauser: I think when people return, they’re going to see something that looks and feels so much more immersive than the visitor experience is right now. They’re going to feel that they have walked into the period of Dickinson’s life, that they can kind of almost stand in her footsteps and look out her windows and feel the same light on their faces that she was feeling.

In terms of identifying our period of significance, we’re able to look, as Jane said, at that time when the Dickinsons have moved back to this house, Emily herself is 24 her writing is about to take off. The Civil War is about to begin, and she lives here with her sister until her her her death in 1886.

Jane Wald: The homestead appeared in a kind of in a Colonial Revival sort of decor. And to me, that has kind of contributed to this sense of Emily Dickinson as not just reclusive, which she was, but less of a three dimensional person. So it sort of has kind of flattened her personality in in common lore and common understanding.

Brooke Steinhauser: Emily Dickinson chose to become reclusive. She chose to stop leaving her father’s house or grounds, she said. But we know that she found other ways to maintain connection and community.

And I think that is actually the key to the similarities in the experience that we’ve all had this year. I think there are a lot of people, I personally found this, that in my reclusion this year, I became more connected to friends that I hadn’t — that I may have lost touch with. And it’s just a reminder that there’s something about Dickinson that is universal, that it’s very human, that touches everybody.