Museum Monday: All things Edgar Allan Poe

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will be celebrating its 100th-anniversary April 28 through October 31, 2022, with an exhibit highlighting dozens of recently acquired Poe artifacts.

The list of artifacts includes Edgar Allen Poe’s pocket watch, which he owned while writing The Tell-Tale Heart, a horror story that, repeatedly mentions a watch.

“That means this might just be the very watch Poe was envisioning when he described the old man’s heartbeat as ‘a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.’,” says Poe Museum curator Chris Semtner.

“The Tell-Tale Heart’ is a classic story we have read in school, heard at Halloween, and even seen recreated on The Simpsons, and having the watch is like holding a real-life piece of that story.”

The gold watch is engraved with “Edgar A. Poe.” And in 1842, Poe gave the watch to one of his creditors to pay off a debt.

Other new-to-the-museum Poe artifacts include his engagement ring, the earliest surviving copy of the last photo ever taken of Poe, and a piece of the coffin in which he was buried for the first 26 years after his death.

Exhibit notes declare the ring “sad evidence of the tragic love story of Poe and his first and last fiancée, Elmira Royster Shelton.”

The couple was engaged as teenagers, but Shelton’s dad broke it off. Poe and Shelton got engaged again, in the last months of Poe’s life. He gave her this ring with the name “Edgar” engraved on it. But Poe died just ten days before their wedding day.

The coffin fragment comes from the original coffin in which Poe was buried on October 8, 1849. In 1875, Poe’s body was moved across the cemetery from his unmarked grave to a better location where a large monument could be placed over his grave.

When the coffin was lifted from the ground, this piece fell off and was later owned by a
president of the Maryland Historical Society,

“Poe wrote so many stories about being buried alive that it seems only fitting that
we have a piece of the very coffin in which he was buried,” says museum curator Semtner.

Fragment of Poe coffin

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond features permanent exhibits of Poe’s manuscripts, personal items, clothing, and even a lock of the author’s hair. The exhibit of newly-acquired artifacts opens with an Unhappy Hour on April 28.

Opened in 1922, the Poe Museum is comprised of four buildings surrounding an Enchanted Garden constructed from the building materials salvaged from Poe’s homes and offices.

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