Restoration of Emily Dickinson's Bedroom

Sweet hours have perished here;
This is a mighty room;
Within its precincts hopes have played, -
Now shadows in the tomb.

Johnson edition, #1767

Dickinson bedroom

Emily Dickinson was born at the Dickinson Homestead in 1830 and lived there for all but fifteen years of her life. There she wrote almost 1,800 poems, only ten of which were published in her lifetime. Thousands of people are drawn each year to the Homestead to experience the place where Dickinson lived and wrote.

The highlight of a visit to the Emily Dickinson Museum for many visitors is the opportunity to stand in her bedroom--her refuge and writing studio. As her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, described her attachment to this sanctuary:

Her love of being alone up in her room was associated with her feeling for a key, which signified freedom from interruption and the social prevention that beset her downstairs. She would stand looking down, one hand raised, thumb and forefinger closed on an imaginary key, and say, with a quick turn of her wrist, "It's just a turn--and freedom, Matty!"

Because Dickinson's bedroom is highly significant to the story of her life and posthumous reputation, the room's accurate presentation is vital to the success of the Museum's mission to educate diverse audiences about the writings, life, times, and enduring relevance of the poet.

Enough information can be assembled through posthumous descriptions and forensic investigation to understnad how her bedchamber looked during her lifetime. A more precise interpretation of her room is possible through reproduction of iconic items of her personal furniture (at Harvard University since 1950); acquisition of household accoutrements, window dressings, and carpeting; and restoration of architectural and decorative elements in the room. The recent discovery of large wallpaper fragments leads to the exciting possibility of covering the walls in a reproduction of Dickinson's own wallpaper.

A budget of $150,000 will enable the Emily Dickinson Museum to complete an evocative restoration of the bedroom with all the visual and atmospheric quality of an inhabited personal and creative space. Visitors will appreciate the view into Dickinson's intimate world and will be able to imagine more clearly the poet at work in her room.

To learn more about the Restoration of Emily Dickinson's Bedroom and how you can help, please contact our development office at or 413.542.5084.

Restoration of the bedroom will include exact reproductions of Emily Dickinson’s writing table
and bureau (collection of Houghton Library, Harvard University).