Opened in 2003, The Webster Bank Museum Center at The Mark Twain House & Museum offers visitors an opportunity to learn more about Mark Twain, his family, the historic house, and the author's legacy. This state-of-the-art facility houses our ticket desk; the Aetna Gallery with a permanent exhibition on Twain's life and work; a rotating exhibition hall, The Hartford Financial Services Theatre, showing a Ken Burns mini-documentary on Twain; classroom space; the lecture hall-style Lincoln Financial Auditorium; The Mark Twain Store; entertaining spaces like the soaring Hal Holbrook and the sunny second floor café/patio area.
In addition, the Museum Center houses our research library, which is open by appointment only. Featuring walls etched with some of his most famous quotations, this LEED-certified green museum is a treasure-filled way to begin and end your visit to The Mark Twain House.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice," Mark Twain wrote in his great, funny travel book, The Innocents Abroad. The many journeys he took throughout his life didn't shake all the prejudice out of him, but they shook him up all the same.
A new exhibit -- "Travel Is Fatal to Prejudice: Mark Twain's Journeys Abroad" -- at The Mark Twain House & Museum includes rare artifacts, some from the museum's own collection and others loaned by other museums and archives.
These include an Ottoman Turkish costume worn by a fellow traveler on one trip; a tiny stone sculpture believed to have been picked up by Twain on a moonlit visit to the Parthenon; Twain first editions; rare manuscript letters highlighting funny and moving events, and -- perhaps the highlight of the show -- a miniature portrait of Olivia Langdon reputedly shown to Twain during a voyage by her brother, a fellow passenger. The portrait, Twain said, led him to fall in love with her at first sight, and, eventually, to marry her.
Another significant rarity is on loan from Bermuda's Masterworks Museum -- a stunning seascape by Winslow Homer portraying the S.S. Trinidad, one of the ships that plied the New York-Bermuda route during the period, late in his life, when Twain found refuge and solace on that island.
There's more: Visitors to the exhibit can stand on (and take selfies on) three unusual three-dimensional sets created by the production staff at Hartford's famed Theaterworks company: a ship's deck, an Alpine trail and a market in India -- each representing one of the three great books that came out of his journeys.
The three great journeys featured in the exhibitions, each of which led to a major travel book by Twain, include:
1. His 1867 journey to Europe and the Holy Land, when he was a brash young reporter sending stories back to his San Francisco newspaper making fun of sophisticated Europeans and innocent Americans alike. The book that came out of this -- The Innocents Abroad -- remained his most popular work of all during his lifetime, far outpacing both Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.
2. His visit to Germany, the Swiss Alps and Italy in 1878-79 - a journey intended in part as a vast shopping trip for the Clemens family's new Hartford house - and as fodder for a second travel book, A Tramp Abroad. Along with his wife and daughters, Twain's close Hartford friend, the Rev. Joseph Twichell, accompanied him, took off with him along Alpine trails, and became a character in the book.
3. And then, a very different journey - a round-the-world trip in 1895-96. Financially stricken, Twain embarked on this expedition to recoup a lost fortune through lectures, writing, and finally by the book that came out of it all: Following the Equator. The trip took him and his wife Livy to Australia, India and South Africa. A terrible family tragedy toward the end of this trip made the writing of the book particularly difficult and poignant.
Finally, with Homer's S.S. Trinidad and other artifacts and illustrations, the exhibition will focus on Twain's last years and his visits to Bermuda, a place he called "the Isles of the Blest" and "the right place for a jaded man to loaf in."
Sponsors include the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts; The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company; United Technologies; and the Greater Hartford Arts Council's United Arts Campaign.
Institutions loaning items include The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri; the Cornell University Historic Costume Collection in Ithaca, New York; the Mark Twain Papers & Project at the University of California, Berkeley; the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Connecticut; the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art; Kevin Mac Donnell of Austin, Texas; and other private collections.
"'Travel Is Fatal to Prejudice': Mark Twain's Journeys Abroad" is open during regular museum hours. A $6.00 fee permits visitors not touring the house to visit the museum's exhibits. "Travel Is Fatal to Prejudice" is curated by Mallory Howard, Interim Beatrice Fox Auerbach Chief Curator at The Mark Twain House & Museum; Guest Curator Dr. Kerry A. Driscoll of the University of St. Joseph; and author and journalist Steve Courtney. The exhibit will run through January 26, 2016.
Artspace is pleased to present
December 2, 2015 – March 4, 2016
Opening Reception: Tuesday, December 2, 4:30-6:30pm
Curated by Sarah Fritchey and Rashmi Talpade
@ The Gallery at Constitution Plaza, Connecticut Office of the Arts, 1 Constitution Plaza, 2nd Floor, Hartford, CT 06103
With: Lani Asuncion, Joy Bush, Jeremy Chandler, David Coon, Joan Fitzsimmons, Clymenza Hawkins, Ellen Hoverkamp, Eben Kling, Sabrina Marques, Chris Mir, Christopher O’Flaherty, Scott Schuldt, and Jessica Smolinski.
For the exhibition, By and by…at home with Sam and Livy, Artspace curators Sarah Fritchey and Rashmi Talpade remake the rules of a game played by the American author, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, in his Hartford home, bringing it into the white cube setting. Presented at The Gallery at Constitution Plaza in the Connecticut Office of the Arts, the exhibition features works on paper by 13 artists who share Clemens’s aptitude for storytelling, humor, and symbolism. The curators selected the work from Artspace’s Flatfile Collection, a growing body of works on paper by 150 regional artists and counting.
The rules of the game were simple. After dinner, Sam and Livy Clemens would gather with their daughters in their library, where Sam would stand in front of their great oak mantelpiece and tell a series of stories. The rule, set by his daughters, was to always start with the painting of the cat in an Elizabethan ruffed collar (commonly referred here as the ‘cat in the ruff’). Then, Clemens had to use every item on the mantel in the story in some way, in order, from the cat to the Impressionist painting of a lady in blue, who they had named Emmeline. If he skipped an item, went out of order, or repeated a story from a different night, he had to start over. Of the objects on the mantle, Clemens said “Those bric-a-bracs were never allowed a peaceful day, a reposeful day, a restful Sabbath. In their lives there was no Sabbath; in their lives there was no peace; they knew no existence but a monotonous career of violence and bloodshed. In the course of time the bric-a-brac and the pictures showed wear.”
Today, the Mark Twain House displays 13 objects on the mantelpiece, including a conch shell, gold plate, white marble statue, painted portrait of a lady, miniature harp, sculptural relief of Clemens, 3 alabaster blue vases, and the painting of the “cat in the ruff”.
Visitors to the Artspace exhibition will find 13 contemporary objects on a replica mantelpiece, provided by the 13 artists in the show. The curators asked each artist to identify one object that relates to their selected body of work. The artists were allowed to interpret this prompt as they wished, with one simple restriction, that the object be small enough to fit on the mantelpiece. Visitors are invited to handle these objects, and rearrange them to activate a new imagined story. Should they wish, visitors may curl up in the reading chair, placed in front of what would be the fireplace, to record a one-page version of their story.
This homage to the historic Mark Twain House celebrates the basic practices of collecting, presenting, conserving, and interpreting objects. The show is organized as a part of Artspace’s 30th Anniversary program series, Three Decades of Change, which is dedicated to experimenting with playful ways of reawakening and performing archives. The Clemens’ practice of traveling, importing, and collecting objects recalls the origins of museums, which started in the homes of nobles. Sam’s game points to the fundamental aspects of curating, realizing how the methods by which we assemble, encounter, and describe an object dictates its historic interpretation. Here, storytelling preserves a space for imagining new life into old objects.
This exhibition is made possible by:
Institute of Museum & Library Services
Maximillian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation
Press Contact: Katie Jurkiewicz, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 203-772-2709.
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