Nature and Art in Emily Dickinson's World: Summer at The Emily Dickinson Museum
July 1, 2003
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.- The Emily Dickinson Museum presents the second season of "The Angle of a Landscape," an annual series of public programs focusing on various aspects of nature and art related to the poet Emily Dickinson and her work. The museum, comprising the Dickinson Homestead and The Evergreens, two historic house museums in Amherst, is devoted to the story and legacy of poet Emily Dickinson and her family. Summer programs are scheduled for July 10, August 9 and September 7. Because space is limited, advance registration is required; please call 413/542-8161 for reservations and information.
This year's sessions include a talk on poetry and the coming of the railroad to a small New England village, a lecture and tour of Amherst's numerous connections to landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and an evening at the Amherst College Observatory to contemplate poetry and the sky. The "Angle of a Landscape" series invites participants to consider the technological, cultural and scientific forces at work in the second half of the nineteenth century and how those intruded upon or enhanced Dickinson's unique perspective on the natural world.
Emily Dickinson was a keen observer of the natural world, well-versed in botany and intrigued by landscape in nature and in art. She was a master of language who used images from each of these sources in her dynamic poetry. Her brother, Austin, and sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson, lived next door to the poet at The Evergreens and shared these interests but cultivated them in quite different ways.
The "Angle of a Landscape" series begins on Thursday, July 10, from 5 to 7 p.m. with " 'Lap the Miles': Emily Dickinson and the Railway." This year marks the 150th anniversary of "New London Day" when the railroad came to Amherst, largely through the legislative efforts of Emily Dickinson's father, Edward. The coming of the railroad was hailed as a major victory for this small agricultural and college town, offering unequaled advantages in transportation, communications and commerce. It linked Amherst in profound ways to the wider world, but, at the same time, permanently altered New England's physical and social landscape. Join William Withuhn, curator of transportation collections at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution, as he examines poetry - including Emily Dickinson's poem, "I like to see it lap the Miles" -- from the point of view of a railroad expert. The program continues with refreshments and a walk to the Amherst train station, followed by a viewing of toy trains owned by the poet's niece and nephews. Withuhn is the author of Rails Across America and The Spirit of Steam. His current projects include writing a book, The American Steam Locomotive: An Engineering History, 1880-1960, and curating "America on the Move," a major Smithsonian exhibition of the social history of American transportation, from 1876 to 2000. The program fee is $15 per person and advance registration is required.
The series continues on Saturday, August 9, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with "The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted and Landscape Architecture in Amherst." Spend the day with John Martin, professor emeritus from the University of Massachusetts Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Department, learning about the Dickinsons' and Amherst's fascination with landscape architecture. The original landscape design at The Evergreens owed much to Andrew Jackson Downing's influence. Later in the century, Austin Dickinson consulted with Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux on several projects in Amherst and hosted them at The Evergreens. After an introductory slide lecture, visit sites in Amherst that exhibit Olmsted's influence: Amherst College, the Town Common, Wildwood Cemetery and The Evergreens. Enjoy a bag lunch (bring your own or place an order with registration) while on your tour. The program fee is $30 per person, plus $7 for optional bag lunch. Because space is limited, advance registration is required.
The "Angle of a Landscape" series concludes with " 'First - Poets - Then the Sun': Emily Dickinson and Astronomy in Amherst" on Sunday, September 7, 6 - 8 p.m. Emily Dickinson's observations of the sky fill her poetry-and that may be no accident. Amherst College in the poet's day was one of the leading institutions for the study of astronomy. The evening program will begin with a consideration of Dickinson's poetic celestial observations led by Martha Ackmann, senior lecturer in women's studies and director of community-based Learning at Mount Holyoke College. Ackmann is a Dickinson scholar and author of The Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight (2003). George Greenstein, Sidney Dillon Professor of Astronomy at Amherst College, will share the rich history of astronomy at Amherst College, including David Todd's contributions to the study of Mars, which passes unusually close to Earth this year. Inspired by these discussions, participants will have an opportunity to gaze at the sky through the refracting telescope at the Amherst College Observatory. Built in 1905 as a technologically advanced astronomy center, the observatory and telescope have been recently restored. The program fee is $15; advance registration is required.
Both Dickinson properties are owned by the Trustees of Amherst College The Dickinson Homestead was the birthplace and residence of the poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). The Evergreens was the 1856 home of the poet's brother and sister-in-law, Austin and Susan Dickinson.
For information about the schedule of summer programs and guided tours at the Emily Dickinson Museum, visit www.dickinsonhomestead.org, call 413/542-8161, or write 280 Main Street, Amherst, MA 01002.