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Ut pictura poesis? Emily Dickinson's esthetic environment goes digital
John Frederick Kensett, Sunset with Cows, 1856. Oil on canvas. AC EDM 2003.210. Transfer from Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust.

AMHERST, MASS.- Amherst College's Mead Art Museum and Emily Dickinson Museum announce the completion of an important project to make the art collection of The Evergreens - the best-preserved visual environment of the famously reclusive poet - available to an international community of viewers through the Five College Art Museums/Historic Deerfield Collection Database. Researchers may browse the entire list of 218 artworks by clicking here.

The Evergreens was the home of Austin and Susan Dickinson, Emily Dickinson's brother and sister-in-law. Unlike the adjacent Emily Dickinson Homestead, which no longer retains its nineteenth-century furnishings, The Evergreens presents the original furniture, accoutrements, and works of art displayed by the Dickinson family.

Jane Wald, Executive Director of the Emily Dickinson Museum, notes, "A significant strand in Dickinson studies has been the context of a life that came to be marked by increasing withdrawal from society - What influenced Dickinson before her growing seclusion and what penetrated the veil she drew around herself? This project marks a major step forward in drawing aside the veil to reveal more fully the artistic tastes of Dickinson's family and the visual culture she experienced first-hand."

The project was made possible with support from Amherst College, which underwrote the first Mead/Dickinson Summer Research Internship, a position charged with performing the core research, and awarded to Jennifer Morales, Class of 2013.

Using existing museum records and library resources, and by examining the original works of art, Morales recorded cataloguing information for every major artwork in The Evergreens's sizeable collection. Morales laid the groundwork for future study by compiling research bibliographies on the topics of collecting in the nineteenth century and on key artists represented in the collection. As the capstone of her project, Morales selected three oil paintings by Azzo Cavazza, Sanford R. Gifford, and John Frederick Kensett for close examination. Her resulting discoveries will inform future public tours offered by Emily Dickinson Museum docents.

Wald observes, "Jenny has done remarkable work in documenting a large part of the Dickinson family's collection of oil paintings, works on paper, and photographs at The Evergreens. The most important outcome of her work is making this little-known collection accessible for new, as well as lingering, research questions."

Elizabeth Barker, Director of the Mead Art Museum, concurs: "We couldn't be happier with the success of this new partnership, which brought the combined expertise of our two museums to bear on a tantalizing, surprisingly little-explored cache of primary visual source material."

Morales, who answered the call for a responsible and organized Amherst College student with a curious mind, strong work ethic, attention to detail, and a willingness to learn - as well as some familiarity with art history, museum work, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson - worked full-time at the museums for six weeks in the summer of 2012, reporting jointly to the Executive Director of the Dickinson and the Director of the Mead, and working closely with the Mead's Curator of American Art. The summer internship proved so fruitful that Morales extended her research into the academic year as part of an internship in American Art at the Mead Art Museum.

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