Let’s Get Physical– or Digital?

What is important about preserving a writer’s legacy, one might ask? Well—there is something special to be said about a writer that lives on long after his death. Take Edgar Allan Poe, for example. His life and works are widely celebrated, admired, and curated in many different ways even over one hundred years after his death. The different ways that a legacy can be preserved all work in separate ways, but together share the common goal of making sure a writer’s afterlives are present. Take the method of exhibitions, for example. The aims and form of an exhibition, whether that be physical or in a digital sense, contribute to Poe’s long lasting legacy.

I recently visited a physical exhibition dedicated to Poe’s life, “The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore and Beyond.” The exhibition consisted of a combination of the places Poe lived, his personal life, his different works, and how he has lived on even after his death. The exhibition was complete with items from Poe’s life and pieces of his work. The item, pictured below, is a fragment of Poe’s coffin that has been preserved since his mysterious and tragic death in 1849.

Poes coffin
Fragment of Edgar Allan Poe’s coffin, with receipt, 1849. Retrieved when his remained were relocated in 1875. From the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection.

This form of preservation, I think, really helps a writer’s legacy live on. People love looking into the lives of others, especially someone as interesting as Poe. Given the opportunity to look at real items that he once possessed, his lock of hair, his works, and read information regarding his life, curious people will become enriched with information about Poe (or any other writer’s exhibition they attend). All of the aspects of the writer’s life are so important to preserve, along with their works, which allows readers to better understanding where inspiration and thoughts regarding the work come from.

On the other hand, a completely digital exhibition is something that also elongates a writer’s afterlives. The purpose of an online exhibition really mirrors that of a physical exhibition, but is carried out in a different way. When information is consolidated in one specific site, it makes it extremely accessible to people of all ages and in any location. Someone can easily do a quick Internet search and become enriched with tons of information right at their fingertips—just like what you have most likely done now to find this blog! Over the course of the last few months, I have created my own online exhibition in hopes of continuing Poe’s legacy for many years to come. I was able to research the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore and it’s members. This society came together with the common goal to preserve Poe’s legacy as well as the Poe house that Baltimore is home to. I really stuck my nose into the work that they did in preserving Poe’s legacy, which I think was their exact goal in preserving all of this information about Poe. The society granted others with the opportunity to spend time finding ways to let this information live on, as well.

history of poe society
Alexander G. Rose III. Cover Page. “A History of the E.A. Poe Society of Baltimore.” 1982. From the George M. Harrison Scrapbook, Edgar Allan Poe Collection, Special Collections at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library at the Johns Hopkins University.

In doing so, I learned tons of information about Poe and the people who love Poe wholeheartedly. I was able to take all of the information I found and consolidate it into one theme and one online exhibition that will now be shared with the world, allowing other Poe enthusiasts to explore the research of the Poe Society. The fact that all of this information is online makes it extremely accessible to everyone, and will be out there on the Internet forever, which is invaluable to any writer’s legacy.


  1. Poe (Edgar Allan) Collection 1875-1985. Finding aid at the Johns Hopkins University Milton S/ Eisenhower Library, Special Collections, Baltimore, MD. http://ead.library.jhu.edu/ms200.xml#idp140727268661912
  2. Special Collections, Milton S. Eisenhower Library, the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.
  3. “The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.” Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore – The Life and Writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
  4. eapoe.org







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