Wednesday, January 13, 2010

'House That Mark Built' Exhibit to Open at Mark Twain House

“The House That Mark Built,” The Mark Twain House & Museum’s new exhibition opening to the public Jan. 20 at 9:30 am, offers a look at Mark Twain’s home’s bricks, mortars and gadgetry – and even provides a place for kids to try their hand at some building of their own.

The exhibition helps launch the museum’s Mark Twain Centennial Celebration, which includes more than two dozen events, lectures, exhibits, and general festivities marking a year of anniversaries: the 125th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the centenary of Mark Twain’s death; and the 175th anniversary of his birth.

“The House That Mark Built” was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, an architect known mainly for his churches. The exhibition provides an overview of Potter’s career as an architect, and shows that while the Clemenses' house did fit into the conventional architecture of the day, the “curious house that Mark built” was not altogether an oddity.

Newspaper and magazine articles from the 1870s and 1880s on display show varied reactions to this newest Nook Farm home. The Hartford Daily Times wrote: "The novelty displayed in the architecture of the building, the oddity of its internal arrangement and the fame of its owner will all conspire to make it a house of note for a long time to come." Letters written by some of the Clemenses’ friends and family also show diverse reactions to the home.

Visitors will get a chance to see some of the original building materials used by the builders, including the elaborate exterior wood carvings, slate from the roof, and samples of the brick.

The exhibition, open through March 22, will also explore technological innovations. Samuel L. Clemens had a passion for modern technology, and the house’s systems reflected this. Central heating, telephones, a burglar alarm, the latest bathroom technology, and the systems for calling servants to the various rooms of the house are examples of this. Many of these gadgets also found their way into Clemens’s writings, samples of which will be on display.

The Mark Twain House & Museum is also interested in modern technologies, but in this case in using them to restore and preserve the house that Mark built. New HVAC systems, ultra-violet protectant films, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and other products aid in the preservation of this historic house. The exhibit will highlight some of these new technologies, and how they help to safeguard the house for future generations of visitors.

There will also be a space to engage children. Using the seven-foot-long LEGO® Mark Twain House on display in the gallery as inspiration, children will be able to build their own structure out of Duplo blocks. They will also learn about architectural terms and shapes using word searches, coloring pages, magnetic building sets, and more. Finally, children and adults alike will enjoy taking part in an architectural scavenger hunt using the historic Mark Twain House & Carriage House.

The exhibition is included in museum admission, and viewable during regular opening hours.
The Exhibition Sponsor for “The House That Mark Built” is United Technologies Corporation. The Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation is the sponsor of the museum’s 2010 Exhibitions. The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., is the museum’s Centennial Sponsor.

The Mark Twain House & Museum has restored the author’s Hartford, Connecticut, home, where the author and his family lived from 1874 to 1891. Twain wrote his most important works during the years that he lived there, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

In addition to providing tours of Twain’s restored home, a National Historic Landmark, the institution offers activities and educational programs that illuminate Twain’s literary legacy and provide information about his life and times. The house and museum at 351 Farmington Ave. are open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 am.-5:30 pm, and Sunday, noon to 5:30 pm. For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit Programs at the Mark Twain House & Museum are supported by the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and the Greater Hartford Arts Council.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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