Those of you who follow me on social media or have attended a Dr. Lori antiques appraisal event somewhere in the United States know that I put a lot of miles on the wheels of my carry-on, roller-board suitcase. When I travel, I try to read a book about my new locale, take in a live sporting event (any sport, I don't care) and visit an art museum, historic house or gallery. I cram a lot of viewing into my travels, and my eyeballs rarely get a break. So, I figure as long as you are using your eyeballs to read this, the least I can do is share some info about what's happening in some museums and historical sites off the beaten path.
Some little-known historic museum sites are dedicated to famous literary figures — authors, playwrights, etc. These museums highlight the lives of the writers and their impact on culture while simultaneously considering pressing issues of the day.
For instance, if you find yourself in New England, plan to visit these museums, which are conveniently located near each other: I suggest you visit northern Connecticut and southern Massachusetts to learn about two 19th-century icons of the written word and one beloved and somewhat zany author/doctor:
— In Hartford, Connecticut, visit the popular Mark Twain House. The home is a typical upscale 19th-century wooden structure of the well-to-do of polite society, complete with its original Tiffany Studios leaded stained-glass window featuring fish, and a variety of books, letters and personal objects all owned by Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.
Twain lived in the Victorian-style home from 1874 to 1891 with his wife, Olivia, and their three daughters. At this home he wrote books which soon became classics: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.”
In Hartford, you also will find the home of advocate and author Harriet Beecher Stowe of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” fame. Carve out some exploration time to tour the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and learn about Stowe's life and the issues surrounding Civil War and Reconstruction-era America.
After you have exhausted the museums dedicated to the two Connecticut authors, pay a visit to the museum that traces the beginnings of such characters as “The Cat in the Hat” and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Seuss’ world, as a museum and educational center, does not disappoint.
If you like to experience museums that are farther afield, learn about Lookout House in Cuba, the museum and home of Ernest Hemingway. Built in 1886, Hemingway's home is 10 miles east of the bustling city of Havana. Hemingway purchased the house in the working-class fishing town for $12,500 in 1940. The house is cozy with original period furnishings and, as you might have guessed, many shelves filled with books. From this home, Hemingway wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “A Moveable Feast” and “The Old Man and the Sea.” Following Hemingway's death in 1961, the Cuban government took ownership of the property, which is now in dire need of preservation.
Like Dr. Seuss, another writer of popular children’s books is the focus of an educational site that features an interesting body of work. Astrid Lindgren, author of “Pippi Longstocking,” had a fascinating life that is the focus of a theme park and farmhouse birthplace in Sweden. Vimmerby, site of the Astrid Lindgren’s World theme park, is a three-hour drive from Stockholm. Born in 1907, Lindgren published “Pippi Longstocking” in 1945. The book told the tales of a strong girl with long red braids named Pippi. Lindgren continued to publish other books through the 1970s and died in 2002. Today, Lindgren's site is a well-known tourist attraction in Scandinavia.
- Dr. Lori Verderame is an author and antiques appraiser on History channel. With a Ph.D. from Penn State University and vast experience appraising art, antiques and artifacts worldwide for museums and collectors, Verderame is the director of DrLoriV.com, a resource for identifying art and artifacts. Visit Facebook.com/DoctorLori, or call 888-431-1010.