Poe Museum

Review

of an Exhibition

by Amanda Page

Published on February 17, 2010

  • Description:

    During a weekend trip to Richmond, I decided to visit the Poe Museum, a suggestion from my sister. Before going, I checked out the website to familiarize myself a bit with the museum and Poe himself. I was pleasantly surprised by the website, as it was extremely user-friendly and informative. My sister mentioned that it was not a large space by any means, but she enjoyed it. Considering the size of the museum there was a great deal of information to explore before visiting the museum. The site was also very professional and well designed. I perused their online collection. Although not large, they had great images of many items accompanied by wonderfully written text. I thought it would be interesting to see how the museum incorporated technology after seeing how much time they put into their website.
    There was also a downloadable audio tour that consisted of thirty separate chapters. My traveling companion and I easily downloaded it to our phones and made our way to the museum. The museum is located right along the edge of downtown Richmond and seems quite out of place tucked in among various bars and stores. We walked into the quaint little stone house, paid for the tour, and were given a laminated guide to follow. In the first exhibit space, I found clearly marked signs for the audio tour, so I knew what chapters corresponded with which objects. It did seem a bit odd to stand there for so long listening to the audio, as the space was not very large. We noticed that other people that came into the room stayed for about five minutes at most, but we were there for ten to fifteen. Before the audio for that room was over, I had read every label with time to spare. That seemed to be the norm for each building we entered.
    Although the audio tour was extremely informative, it seems as though it could have been shortened a bit. I even skipped over the sections where there were letters read or portions of Poe’s poems or stories read aloud and it still seemed long. I wish there had been more audio outside in the Enchanted Garden. Although covered in snow, it was a beautiful space and I would have enjoyed listening to more outside where I was not in such a confined space. Instead we spent about half of our tour in the Memorial Building, again not a large space. We quickly realized after scanning the room that the remainder of the audio tour corresponded to that room. There was a bench, so we sat and listened to parts of the audio since we had already looked at all of the objects. Also in the Memorial Building, I noticed that some of the audio did not match the sign placement, even though many objects were at least close by. This could have been from objects being placed elsewhere since the tour was developed, but it was a bit puzzling at first.
    Overall, I really enjoyed the audio tour. I felt like I gained much more knowledge than if I had just looked at the objects and read the labels. The audio told some stories that were not mentioned elsewhere in the museum. I did also note though that we were the only two listening to the audio tour. I would not have known about it unless I had found it on their website. It appears that they used to have audio devices to give to visitors, but at some point gave up on that and put everything online. It is unfortunate that others did not seem to know about it prior to their visit as it really added to the experience.
    Besides the audio tour, the museum really lacked a use of other technology. Although, because of the time period and the subject, it did not bother me that there was not more incorporated. It would have taken away from the aesthetics of the site. Their lack of space probably makes it almost impossible to really add anything major. There was one room in the final building that had a television and DVD player that showed The Tell Tale Heart. We only discovered it after hearing eerie music playing upstairs from the temporary exhibit and decided to investigate. It did correspond well with the exhibit on how Poe’s works influenced modern culture, mostly through movie adaptations. This was the only building where technology could have been incorporated, since the space seems more modern and is a bit more open.
    I learned a great deal through the audio tour as well as the displays and yet, still left with questions about Poe’s life. This led me right back to their website where I could do further research and I really think the website and the museum go hand in hand. Because of their lack of space, they have utilized the web to include things that otherwise would not be displayed, and instead allow the objects in the museum to speak for themselves.

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