ORGANIZED IN COLLABORATION WITH THE BRONTË PARSONAGE MUSEUM AND THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, LONDON
Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will September 9, 2016 through January 2, 2017
The exhibition celebrates the two-hundredth anniversary of Brontë’s birth in 1816, and marks an historic collaboration between the Morgan, which holds one of the world’s most important collections of Brontë manuscripts and letters, and the Brontë Parsonage Museum, in Haworth, England, which will lend a variety of key items including the author’s earliest surviving miniature manuscript, her portable writing desk and paintbox, and a blue floral dress she wore in the 1850s. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a portion of the original manuscript of Jane Eyre, on loan from the British Library and being shown in the U.S. for the first time, open to the page on which Jane asserts her “independent will.” Also shown for the first time in America will be the only two life portraits of Brontë, on loan from London’s National Portrait Gallery.
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The Morgan Library was completed in 1906 but it wasn’t until after JP’s death (1913, see photo below) that the library was opened to the public, around 1924. The library still houses many rare books, music manuscripts and has a considerable collection of Victoriana, including one of the most important collections of Gilbert and Sullivan manuscripts and related artifacts but many of the more valuable pieces from his original collection now reside in major museums and other institutions.
One of the most interesting things about the library is its former librarian. Morgan, a man who never allowed women employees to work at his bank, hired a twenty-something African American woman, Belle de Costa Greene. Greene became Morgan’s trusted friend and a powerful woman in the world of rare books, manuscripts and art. She enjoyed a colorful life moving between bohemia and the elite in NYC and beyond. An enormous accomplishment for a young Victorian woman of color. However, she was fair skinned, she presented herself as Portuguese and people seemed to look the other way. You can visit the office where she worked in the North Room of the library. She later became the first Director of the Morgan Library.
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