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.
In collaboration with Shandong Department of Culture and Shandong Museum in China, The Mark Twain House & Museum is bringing a unique and never-before-seen collection of Han Dynasty stone rubbings to Connecticut. The exhibition will be displayed at The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford between May 21 and August 31, 2015.
The Han Dynasty (206 BC -- 220 AD) was a formative period in the history of Chinese society and culture. Many of the institutions that continued to shape China all the way up to the early 20th century were established during this period. The stone rubbings are artistically crafted facsimiles of stone engravings found in tombs and on mountainsides in and around what is today Shandong province. They provide detailed and vivid descriptions of everyday, economic, religious, political and cultural life at the time.
The collection that will be presented has great historic, cultural and academic value. The complete exhibition consists of a large number of individual rubbings of various sizes, ranging from smaller pieces up to larger ones covering entire walls, all filled with vivid detail.
Mark Twain lived and worked on his books in Hartford, Connecticut, from 1871--1891. He and his wife, Livy, raised their family in the Hartford house, and he wrote many of his most famous works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, during the time he lived in the house. While many know Twain as a novelist and satirist, he was also an opinionated social and political commentator and active in many progressive causes. A prolific traveler, he was well informed of and outspoken regarding world issues.
Though he never traveled to China, Twain wrote about Chinese immigrants and their treatment in the United States, and was a vocal anti-imperialist. His friendship with American diplomat Anson Burlingame gave him particular insight, interest, and sympathy for the Chinese. Through one of his closest friends, the Reverend Joseph Twichell, Twain became involved in the Chinese Educational Mission, which brought more than 120 male students from China to study in the United States from 1872--1881. The Mark Twain House & Museum is honored to have the opportunity to display this very special collection from Shandong.
Viewing of the exhibition is complementary with a tour of The Mark Twain House. Without a tour, this exhibition can be viewed along with the other exhibits in the museum center for a $6.00 charge.
Twain's books, funny quote t-shirts, Victorian-era gifts, Twain House and Hartford souvenirs, writer's journals and other tools. The Twain Store has something for everyone.
There is always a good reason to visit the Mark Twain House. With unique events for Twain fans of every age, keep checking back for updates.
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