Richmond, Virginia, is a city full of museums, and a person could spend years exploring all of the art and artifacts that these institutions offer. I must admit that I’m woefully behind on my plan to visit each and every museum here in Virginia’s capitol, but I’m making progress. For example, on a recent Saturday I visited The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe, and I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to tell you about it. Poe, who you might recall from your high-school English Lit class, is considered the father of horror fiction, and wrote such classics as The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum. He also wrote the first detective stories, such as The Murders in the Rue Morgue, as well as some of the first science fiction tales. Poe was born in Boston, but he spent many of his most productive years in Virginia, and always considered Richmond to be his home.
Poe has always been one of the most popular American authors, but it’s not a stretch to say he’s more popular now than ever before. For example, you might have heard about the new movie opening on April 27, called The Raven, which stars John Cusack as Poe. The movie is set in Baltimore in 1849, and is a fictionalized story of the last day’s of Poe’s life. Believe it or not, there have even been several comic book series in the last few years starring the author, such as the aptly titled, Poe, from Boom! Studios. If you need further evidence of his popularity, go on social sites such as Twitter or tumblr and do a search for “Poe” and you’ll get a sense of how relevant he is in pop culture.
Watch a quick video from our good friend Jake Crocker on Edgar Allan Poe being a Richmonder.
So, without further ado, let me tell you about my visit to the Poe museum. The first thing to know is that it’s conveniently located and parking is a breeze (not always the case in downtown Richmond). It’s located at 1914-16 East Main Street, which is only a few blocks from exit 74C , off Interstate 95. The museum has a small, free parking lot adjacent to the entrance, and if that’s full, there’s plenty of on-street parking. Admission hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Sunday, 11:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., and closed on Mondays. Admission is $6 for adults, and $5 for senior citizens and students.
Guided tours are available, but I chose the self-guided option and felt like I experienced everything, thanks to helpful signs and a guide sheet explaining the displays. One thing that should be pointed out – the museum is larger than it appears from the outside. The entrance is located in a small, stone building, which doesn’t look that impressive from the street, but three other buildings house the bulk of the displays. I’m glad I gave myself 90 minutes to wander through the buildings and peruse the memorabilia – any less time than that and I would have missed a few displays.
As with most museums, photography is prohibited inside the buildings, but visitors are allowed to take pictures of the exterior and the beautiful “Enchanted Garden”. The main building contains furniture, household items, and fine art from Poe’s boyhood homes in Richmond. The other buildings house rare manuscripts, photographs, and first editions of Poe’s works.
For me, the highlight of the tour was a collection of drawings by a young artist named James Carling, illustrating Poe’s most famous poem, The Raven. It was amazing to see these brilliantly macabre illustrations, created so many years ago by a self-taught artist in his early twenties. I would attempt to describe the other fascinating items that the museum holds, but instead, I’ll encourage you to visit the museum’s fine website.
Whether you live in Richmond or plan to be travelling in the area, please do yourself a favor and visit The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe. Afterwards, I’ll bet you leave with a greater appreciation for the genius of the man some call “America’s Shakespeare”.