Visiting the Edgar Allan Poe Museum

By Cary Chapman

“It’s true! Yes, I have been ill, very ill. But why do you say that I have lost control of my mind, why do you say that I am mad?”

These opening lines of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” plunge the reader into a story that horrifies not with a zombie apocalypse or goblins or anything overtly supernatural. Rather, it’s a tale of psychological terror—of guilt so intense that a murderer hears the beating heart of his victim buried beneath the floorboards. Before Freud was even born, Poe was a master of delving deep into the human subconscious, bringing his readers along for the dark and twisted ride. Poe’s tortured protagonists make you wonder… who was this man?

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Here I am smiling dorkily at the Poe shrine.

When I, literature nerd extraordinaire, visited to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia this winter break, I was amazed at the series of eerie tragedies that occurred one after another for all forty years of Poe’s life. There are too many to repeat here, but indulge me for one of the most sinister.

As a young man, Poe was secretly engaged to a woman named Sarah Elmira Royster. Her father disapproved of the union, and Sarah married another man to become Sarah Elmira Shelton. Poe went on to marry his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, in 1836. She died at the age of 24 of tuberculosis in a Bronx cottage that you can visit today. But Poe never forgot his first love and when Sarah Elmira was widowed, she and Poe became engaged—in 1849.

Here’s where things get freaky: On September 27, 1849, Poe left Richmond for New York. He was a literary celebrity at this point, so the trip makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is what happened next: Poe never made it to New York. On October 3, 1849, he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore. Four days later, on October 7, Poe died. Think about that for a second: writer, widow, and orphan Edgar finally gets engaged to his childhood sweetheart, only to die before the wedding under mysterious circumstances in a city not his own. It’s a fitting end if there ever was one for the king of the macabre—Poe’s life ended in delirium.

It’s true! Yes, he was ill, very ill. Had he lost control of his mind? Do you say that he is mad?

The museum does a great job of layering stories of Poe’s life with the stories in his work, crafting a nuanced portrait of a complex man. We meet the jock who swam six miles in the James River, a feat that has never been repeated. Here we see the orphaned son of Boston actors sent to live with the Allan family in Richmond. There’s the lover, the critic, and the man who wrote the first modern detective story, haunting lyrical poetry, morbid satire, and theories of the cosmos. Oh, and the chilling psychological horror stories for which he is most known.

Physically located in the oldest house in Richmond, the museum is not Poe’s home, but a building nonetheless rich with history. It is a fitting setting for artifacts like Poe’s boyhood bed, his white silk vest, and portraits of influential people in his life. Two black cats roam a courtyard the museum calls The Enchanted Garden, whose brick pathways are made from pieces of the Southern Literary Messenger building where Poe worked for two years.

In addition to the traditional biographical information, the museum also offers artistic interpretations of Poe’s work, a Poe shrine, and a particularly bizarre and wonderful room whose sole purpose is to offer context for the satirical short story “Some Words with a Mummy.” I’ll let you read it for yourself, but let me just give you a teaser. A group of scientists unwrap a mummy whose name is Allamistakeo. He comes to life with the help of a little electricity, engages in conversation with the scientists, and ends up resolutely unimpressed with all modern technology and innovation—with the exception of the cough drop.

I highly recommend this museum and I will conclude my review by answering a question I know is burning on all of your minds: yes, you can have your wedding here.

 

Cary Chapman is a junior and a writer for Barnard Bite.

Popping the Bubble Week 7: Our Presidential History

By Sinead Hunt

This week I had the distinct pleasure of visiting a New York City landmark that has been on my list for quite some time: the New York Historical Society. Typically, tickets for students can be quite pricey ($12 with student ID). However, on Friday nights from 6 to 8 p.m., the Historical Society runs a promotion where visitors can enter for a “suggested donation.” Thus, with only a crinkled dollar bill to spare, I was able to gain admittance into this amazing New York resource.

My favorite exhibit of the night was definitely, “Campaigning for the Presidency, 1960-1972: Selections from the Museum of Democracy.” This collection of political memorabiliap1 allows visitors to experience firsthand the highly contentious presidential campaigns of
the 1960’s. All in all, I found the items in the collection to be highly entertaining. From Richard Nixon’s many poorly-worded campaign slogans, including, “Click with Dick!” and “My Pick is Dick,” to cigarette packages proudly displaying Nixon’s face, I found myself stifling my laughter as I meandered about the exhibit. Though the collection was, without a doubt, incredibly funny, it was at the same time both informative and captivating. I believe that the political paraphernalia displayed in this collection affords visitors a unique insight into political zeitgeist of the 1960’s.

The first presidential race discussed in this exhibit was the election of 1960. As tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union continued to escalate, American voters were faced with the decision to elect either seasoned vice-president Richard Nixon, or the charming one-term senator, John F. Kennedy. The advent of the televised debate proved decidedly important in the election of 1960. Over seventy-seven million Americans tuned in to watch the presidential debate from the comfort of their own homes. Kennedy excelled during the debate, looking right into the camera in order to provide a sense of intimacy with the viewership. Nixon, however, floundered on camera. He refused to wear stage makeup, and the bright lights of the set made him sweat excessively, so that he came across to voters as extremely nervous. Ultimately, the televised debate highlighted one of Nixon’s greatest weaknesses as a candidate: his complete lack of charisma. As a p2result, much of the political paraphernalia produced by the Nixon campaign aimed to portray their candidate as personable (hence, the awkwardly phallic campaign slogans).
The second campaign examined in this exhibit was the election of 1964, which was a veritable tete-a-tete between incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson and Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Johnson, who had vowed to “build a great society” upon his ascension to the presidency in 1963, ran on a campaign promising greater social programs. Johnson defiantly declared a “war on poverty,” and sought to create a better society for all Americans, regardless of  race, creed, culture, or socioeconomic class. Republicans struggled to unite behind candidate Barry Goldwater. In particular, Goldwater’s decision to oppose the 1964 Civil Right’s Act alienated many moderate Republicans. Goldwater’s many off the cuff remarks regarding liberalism, as well as his vehement emphasis on states’ rights, portrayed him as an extremist. In p3response to Goldwater’s campaign slogan, “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right,” the Johnson campaign countered with the incisively witty comeback, “In Your Gut You Know He’s Nuts.” Ultimately, the American people’s perception of LBJ as a moderate candidate proved invaluable in helping him to be elected.

The 1968 presidential race featured, once again, Richard Nixon, as well as LBJ’s vice-president, Hubert Humphrey. Though Nixon had already lost the presidency once, by 1968 the general tone of American politics had been completely transformed. Voters, disenchanted by America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, increasingly resented Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson’s withdrawal from the race offered a way for three contenders: anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy, vice-president Hubert Humphrey and, the one and only Richard Nixon. While Hubert Humphrey ran a campaign that boasted the accomplishments of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Nixon’s campaign invoked imagesp4 of burning American cities. In response to the race riots proceeding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s tragic death, Nixon ran on a “law and order” campaign, capitalizing on the racially-motivated fear many Americans secretly harbored (sound familiar to anyone?). Nixon’s criticism of federal civil rights legislation resonated with many White Southerners, and his favorability among the “silent majority” undeniably helped him to secure success in such a close race.

Ultimately, I believe that this exhibit is incredibly important, even now more than ever (incidentally Nixon’s campaign slogan in the 1972 race). The political climate in the United States is a pendulum, constantly oscillating between conservatism and liberalism. Though Nixon initially lost to liberal p5candidate John F. Kennedy, he was later able to gain two consecutive terms in office. The 1960’s were an incredibly turbulent time in American history. Between the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the forced desegregation of public schools, many Americans resented the government for forcing them to comply with social policies they didn’t necessarily believe in. Many Americans secretly harbored racially-motivated fears, which were further exacerbated by the racial riots following the assassination of Dr. King. This “silent majority,” who felt that the government had betrayed them and their interests, and that their opinions were no longer valued, found their champion in Richard Nixon. In this way, the past forestalls the future, as Donald Trump capitalized on many similar sentiments to win the presidency in the 2016 race.

Image Courtesy of Sinead Hunt

Sinead Hunt is  a first-year at Barnard and Liaison for Barnard Bite.

 

How to Beat the Winter Blues

by Molly Scott

We feel you Mr. Snowman.

Sad that the joy and freedom of winter break is over? Can’t take the dreary and cold conditions of New York in the middle of January? We get it. For your mental well being it’s important to find some excitement and happiness during these winter months. That’s why we’ve created these ideas for how to beat the notorious winter blues.

Find ways to enjoy the season! Yes it’s cold out, but that means it’s the perfect time to go ice skating and enjoy some hot chocolate while strolling through Central Park! Since the holiday season is over, the tourist crowds have died down which means little to no lines at ice skating destinations. Snow day? Grab some friends, head to Riverside or Central Park, and enjoy the beautiful scenery (or have a snowball fight).

Go outside! It’s tempting to just bundle up and stay inside your room, but going outside and getting some sun exposure will help with your mood, health, and outlook during colder months. Going for a walk or jog is a great way to get both exercise and some sun; at the very least, don’t take the tunnels to every class.

Exercise! This seems to be the answer for everything, but it’s true. Raising your heart rate will boost your mood and can help blast away your winter blues. If it’s too cold outside, try Dodge or the Barnard track (above the basketball court in LeFrak). Exercise will not only help improve your mood, it’s also a way to stay sane, a great study break, and a way to help your body stay healthy.

Buy a plant or flowers. This sounds odd, but it works! Having something that grows in your room is a great way to connect to nature, which is hard to do in the city. Buying some flowers every once in a while is a nice way to brighten up your room, which can elevate the way you feel.

Reorganize your desk and closet. Get an early start on your spring-cleaning and re-arrange, organize, and clean your room. It will give you a fresh start to the semester and will improve the way you see your space (what little you have of it). Having a clean area to do work will help you focus and can minimize distractions. Having a neat closet will allow you to see what you actually have and you’ll get better use out of your clothing.

Head to a museum! Since it’s so cold outside, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the indoor wonders of NYC. Take a study break and head to a museum or gallery you’ve been wanting to visit.

Plan your spring break. Need something to look forward to in order to get out of your winter funk? Plan some fun activities for spring break (March 15 to 23) and start a countdown on your calendar. It’ll keep you staying positive during these cold months.

Molly Scott is a junior at Barnard and Senior Editor of The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of Paul the Counsellor.

A Day Out In The City: Art Culture in Queens

by Zoe Baker-Peng

“The better the mural, the longer it stays up”

Last weekend I decided that I wanted to venture outside of my comfort zone. I had recently heard of a graffiti park in Long Island City, Queens. Grabbing my camera, I set off to discover a side of New York City that I had never experienced before. Here’s a rundown of my daytrip and the journey I undertook so that perhaps you, too, can explore a new area.

5Pointz Aerosol Art Centre
Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, Long Island City, Queens
Subway: Easiest way is to take the 1, 2, or 3 to Times Square (42nd Street). Change to the 7. While on the 7. Get off at Court Square. 5Pointz is directly next to the subway line which runs overhead.
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-8pm
Admission: Free

5Pointz, the “Institute of Higher Burning,” is a large warehouse covered in over 350 graffiti murals, designed and painted by artists from all over the world. The number of artists who have contributed to this urban art project is simply astounding. The name, 5Pointz, signifies New York City’s five boroughs coming together through art, a vision upheld by its owner, Jonathan Cohen (otherwise known as “Meres One”). Cohen, the landlord of this warehouse, wants to turn this venture into a certified graffiti museum along with a school for young graffiti artists who want to improve and learn the tricks of the trade.

I see you, ESB!

5Pointz is truly a site to behold. The murals range from small scenes to full wall illustrations, creating optical mazes that seemingly burst off the walls and into the street. Wall space is so coveted that artists have to obtain a permit from Cohen to leave their mark on the valuable walls, and the policy is “the better the mural, the longer it stays up.” Be sure to walk the entire way around the building as every side offers new views and visual experiences. Look for a glimpse of the Empire State Building, behind the colorful warehouse, on the East side of the building. Keep an eye out for photo shoots or music videos being filmed (a permit must also be obtained for this). Tours are also available.

Hours are listed as Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-8pm, although the murals can always be seen from the street. I would recommend going during the daytime; you don’t want to be alone in the dark at the end of Davis Street. Definitely bring a camera and be sure to look at all areas of the warehouse and its walls – you don’t want to miss installations that are low to the ground or very high up.

MoMA PS1
Jackson Avenue, at the intersection of 46th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens.
Subway: (same as above for 5Pointz!)
Hours: 12pm-6pm Thursday through Monday. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Admission: Suggested donation of $5 for students. Free with a MoMA admission ticket (within 14 days of issue date).

The MoMA PS1 (previously P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre before full affiliation with the Museum of Modern Art in 2010) is an edgy exhibition space, displaying “the most experimental art in the world.” This “artistic laboratory” exhibits exciting, contemporary artworks that certainly exercise your creative mind. Installations are limited at the moment as the museum prepares for EXPO 1, the new exhibition opening May 12th and running until September 2nd.

Zoe Baker-Peng is a sophomore at Barnard and a staff writer and photographer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Photo courtesy of MoMA PS1.