The Edgar Allan Poe Museum, housed in the oldest building in Richmond, has the largest collection of Poe artifacts in the world. Besides manuscripts, letters, and first editions, you can see Poe’s silk vest, a walking stick inscribed with his name, and his childhood bed. Excellent signage and an audio tour tell the stories behind artifacts. One of my favorites is the the trunk Poe had with him when he made his final journey.
As he lay dying in a Baltimore, Poe couldn’t remember what had happened to his trunk of clothes. After his death, his cousin Neilson Poe, a man Edgar viewed as a bitter enemy, ended up with the trunk. Neilson received requests for it from Edgar’s sister in Richmond and from his beloved mother-in-law in Fordham, New York. Another Poe enemy, Rufus Griswold, convinced the mother-in-law to name him Poe’s literary executor and requested the manuscripts from the trunk. Neilson gave him the manuscripts and sent the trunk and the rest of its contents to Edgar’s sister. The Poe Museum also has the key to the trunk, found in Poe’s pocket after his death.
The museum's collections are on display in several buildings surrounding a courtyard garden inspired by Poe's poem "To One in Paradise." A bust of Poe commands attention at the far end of the garden, but his ghostly presence is everywhere. I encountered it when I tried to exit a room in one of the auxiliary buildings. The door cracked open a few inches and then resisted my push on it. Suddenly it swung open of its own accord with a creaking sound. I was sure another museum visitor had pulled it open, but no one was standing outside that door. Well, no one with a body was there. The obvious conclusion: Poe's spirit had released me from the tiny chamber in which I'd been imprisoned.
© 2017 Mary Ann Corrigan
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