Recently, the Guardian (UK) published an article about the homes of a dozen famous authors and indicated that such destinations would be appropriate for writerly pilgrimages. It’s an interesting idea, one I had considered myself in the past.
But the older I get, the less mystical I find these places in and of themselves. So, Virginia Woolf lived here? That’s great, but a house is only a building to people who have never inhabited that space. Maybe the solution is to take a cue from places like the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and turn these structures into something less monumental and more instructive. Get people interpreting for visitors as they do at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. Have historical reenactors on hand à la Greenfield Village.
It’s not enough to put a picture of someone on the wall and claim it’s a sacred place. Explain to me why this location holds power. Because if you don’t, I’m simply standing there looking at a time capsule with no notes to impart the importance of the place upon me, and as someone who’s looking for answers, I need more than an old typewriter and a childhood portrait.