- Eudora Welty House and Garden
April of 2016 marked the tenth anniversary of the public opening of the Eudora Welty House, renamed the Eudora Welty House and Garden (EWHG) in 2013. We celebrated this milestone with a week of special events. We launched it with the inauguration of Second Saturday open hours and a talk by long-time Welty friend Patti Carr Black. Black discussed the curation of her 1995 exhibit, "Other Places," which highlights twenty of Welty's 1930s photographs of New Orleans and New York City, Welty's two other beloved cities outside of Jackson. This exhibit was on display in the Education and Visitors Center during 2016. Maggie Stevenson took the lead in orchestrating our second "pop-up" art exhibit, which presented Welty-themed work done by Mississippi artists. We hosted the Scholastic Writing Awards ceremony on a Sunday, which was sponsored by the Eudora Welty Foundation, and opened the Welty House for tours to student winners, their families, and teachers. The week also included our annual celebration of Welty's birthday on April 13, which was held in conjunction with our spring plant sale. Over nine hundred people visited the EWHG during the anniversary week.
We enthusiastically stretched ourselves in a new direction last year with "Jane Austen in the Eudora Welty Garden." This was our first mini-film series, and it was held in the Camelia Room of the Welty garden. Independent scholar Carolyn Brown proposed the idea in the fall of 2015 and served as the content specialist for the three-part series that aimed to combine Welty's love of Austen's fiction, cinema, and good times in the garden! Emma, Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version), and the Bollywoood adaptation of the latter, Bride and Prejudice, were shown over three Friday nights in May, September, and October. I served as the [End Page 126] lead staff member on this project, done in partnership with Jackson-based Crossroads Film Society and the Mississippi regional chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (MS-JASNA). The series was funded by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council with assistance from MS-JASNA. The Museum Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History contributed marketing and technical assistance as well as funds to provide moviegoers with popcorn and lemonade. Dr. Brown spoke at each screening and distributed handouts highlighting Welty's connections to each film. The weather cooperated nicely, and the series was a robust success, drawing just under four hundred moviegoers. We hope to do it again in the fall of 2017. The series was especially successful in drawing younger people to the site and noticeably increased our Facebook "likes"!
Education and Outreach Specialist Isabel Gray accomplished a great deal this year, starting with the completion of the EWHG's first Educator's Field Trip Guide for teachers. The guide is 25 pages and includes information for planning a trip, the history of the house and garden, a Welty family timeline, curricular connections showing how a trip meshes with state educational standards across a variety of disciplines, resources for teachers before and after a visit, games, and a host of other activities. Gray's excellent work was fittingly praised by many in the Department. The guide can be found at www.mdah.ms.gov/welty/resources.
Gray also curated her first exhibit, which opened to the public in mid-February. Dear Miss Welty: A Rotating Selection of Correspondence is drawn from "fan mail" found in the Welty Collection at the Archives. She chose a wonderfully diverse selection of letters and telegrams to scan and display, ranging from notes by Presidents John Kennedy and Bill Clinton to a 1983 letter by an eight-year-old girl from San Francisco beseeching Welty's understanding and friendship as they endured their common predicament of having such an unusual name. The famed 1943 letter to Welty from William Faulkner is also on display. Gray is currently choosing the next rotation of letters; they will highlight correspondence relating to life in Jackson and area friends and fans.
We continue with our quarterly book signings and readings, a collaboration with Lemuria Books. We had...