Friday, October 29, 2010

Ken Burns' Pianist: Jacqueline Schwab

For the 80 or so folks in attendance last night, the evening concert surely created a special memory.  Jacqueline Schwab, the only pianist documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will engage, performed for two hours on the Ossip Gabrilowitsch grand piano in the Museum Gallery.  Ms. Schwab played classic Americana tunes - Stephen Foster, Scott Joplin, etc. - and paused in between to tell stories of the songs, the composers and performers, and the sentiment of the day.  The crowd was mesmerized.  It was wonderful to be tucked in all together among the Norman Rockwell paintings, soft lighting, friendly faces.  I felt as though we'd have a group of friends over for some parlor entertainment (although someone of Jacqueline's talent would not typically be found playing in someone's parlor).
Jacqueline Schwab delighted the audience with stories in between songs.
I almost asked her to play "Ashokan Farewell" - that haunting theme played throughout Burns' Civil War documentary, but I felt it might be too much to bear.  The song is one I have heard hundreds of times, in my multiple viewings of the documentary and in the repeated listenings on the CD in my car and at home.  But, I didn't ask her, knowing it would only make me cry.  Imagine my mixed emotions (mainly joy) when she sat down to play her encore.  Ashokan Farewell.

And I was not the only one crying.
Jacqueline Schwab playing the Ossip Gabrilowitsch piano

Sunday, October 24, 2010

VOTE DAILY for "Tourism Cares" Grant

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum is in the running for a grant to help us with the Becky Thatcher House restoration.  However, there's one catch: we need your vote!

Just like the Pepsi grant that will run Nov. 1-30, this grant is awarded based solely on the number of votes received.  Right now the Museum is ahead, but we don't want to take anything for granted.  So please, bookmark this page, and remember to VOTE DAILY THROUGH DECEMBER 3rd.  And please share this with your friends.  Thank you!
Your DAILY VOTE will help us secure a grant to complete restoration and re-open this national treasure!

Hoarding Gourds

There is no such thing as a typical day at the Museum.  Curator and friend Henry Sweets has told me this a thousand times, always with a knowing smile.  Henry is wise.  And right.

On Friday morning Henry was visited by a couple who brought us a gigantic hand-painted gourd that was covered in scenes from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, all beautifully depicted in acrylics.  The artist, Mrs. Marsan, is 70 years old and works in any medium that is handy.  She raises her own gourds and has won numerous "Best of Show" and "First Place" awards for her work.  The "Mark Twain Gourd" includes some wood-burning technique and a bit of sculpture.  Even the handle, an antique fishing bobber, is complimented with a smaller gourd painted to look exactly like a Mississippi River catfish.  The work is unusual and compelling, and we are proud to accept it into our collection.  In fact, we are hoping Mrs. Marsan will accept our invitation to visit the Museum in the spring and talk about her work.  It's nice to know there are folks out there indulging their creativity and that they are finding some inspiration in our Sam Clemens!

Thanks you, Mrs. Marsan!

Henry Sweets accepts hand-painted "Mark Twain" gourd from Mrs. Marsan's daughter

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Mini Page

In November you can read all about Mark Twain in The Mini Page!
The Museum is happy to have been able to work with the editors on this project.
As a former elementary school teacher, I'm a big fan of "The Mini Page" - a Universal Press Syndicate feature for children appearing in more than 500 newspapers since 1969.  I used to laminate these and share them with my students and was always impressed by the wide array of subjects they covered.

We were contacted by the editors of The Mini Page recently and asked to help with an important upcoming topic: Mark Twain!  In honor of Sam Clemens's 175th birthday, The Mini Page will feature our hero in its Nov. 13-19 issue.  We are thrilled to have played a small part in providing information and images and hope you all get a chance to read it.  Let's hope that classroom teachers will save this copy for future students, too!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Honors and Resolutions and Awards... oh, my!

So, this is how you write a blog... you squeeze it in between grant writing and answering emails and... well, you squeeze it in. I think Mark Twain would have been a GREAT blogger!

Did you know that his new, suppressed-for-one-hundred-years autobiography just came out? Well, actually it is just Volume 1 (there will be two more), and was well worth the wait! This is Twain's tale as he intended to tell it, and thanks to the great folks at The Mark Twain Project at UC-Berkeley for their tireless efforts.  Mark Twain wanted to "speak from the grave" - and this autobiography is doing just that 100 years after his death. It is already Amazon's Number One Bestseller (but please buy YOUR copy from our online store or our Museum gift shop!), and I predict it will land on the New York Times Bestseller List and stay there for quite some time. Imagine... he wanted to wait 100 years before the world could read this. And he got his wish!

In other Museum news, we found ourselves in the spotlight last week. The Museum won the Governor's 2010 Humanities Award for Exemplary Community Achievement; specific achievements included the young authors' workshops, teacher workshops, programs, "night at the museum" sleepovers, and our soon-to-be released CD telling Twain's life in spoken word and song.

(L-R) Eric Zahnd, Council Vice-Chair; Henry Sweets, Museum Curator;
Cindy Lovell, Museum Executive Director; Geoff Giglierano, Council Executive Director

Gladys Coggswell, the Museum's storyteller-in-residence, also won the Governor's Humanities Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement for her book, Stories From the Heart: Missouri's African American Heritage. We are so proud of Gladys's achievement and thrilled to have her on staff.

State Representative Rachel Bringer was on hand at the Governor's Humanities ceremony to present the Museum and Gladys with two separate Resolutions to honor the occasion. And as if that weren't enough hoopla for one week, imagine our surprise on Saturday night. I was attending the Hannibal NAACP annual banquet on Saturday night with curator Henry Sweets, Gladys, her husband Truman, and more than a hundred others, when president Annie Dixon announced that the Museum was to receive the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award! This was a real shock. I have worked with "Annie's kids" - Hannibal 6th graders - for two years now in an after-school program focusing on scientific inquiry, and it's been nothing but a joy. To receive an award for doing something you love is truly icing on the cake. These kids are great, and I enjoy helping them discover science in their world (psssssst... it's everywhere...). We work on the scientific method and emphasize communication skills. Scientists have to replicate; if they don't communicate clearly, they'll never cure paralysis, cancer, epilepsy, etc. Mark Twain was a truth-seeker and a truth-teller, and this is what science is all about: finding the truth. Mark Twain considered piloting a steamboat a science, and he gave us a great work of science fiction in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. I like to think he'd be proud of these recognitions in his honor.

Friday, October 8, 2010

First Blog!

Welcome to the launch of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum Blog!

Hello, fellow Twainiacs.  Cindy Lovell here, saying hello and thanking you for stopping by the blog.  We have so much going on, it's hard to know where to start.

Last night I spent a great evening speaking to Twain fans at the Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City, Missouri, and today I got to accompany a lovely tour group from POLIS at Quincy University out to Sam Clemens's birthplace in Florida, Missouri.  They'll be joining us here at the Museum Gallery in a bit to hear local Mark Twain impersonator Jim Waddell perform as America's Greatest Author.  While I was out today I missed a visit from friends in Oklahoma who come to the Museum every fall.  We did get to speak on the phone briefly, so that was nice.  They were generous in their praise for the changes that have occurred since their last visit.  For instance:

  • The "Rockwell Reunion" - We presently have on loan the missing whitewashing scene that Norman Rockwell had borrowed and then accidentally sold.  (Thank you, Farnsworth Art Museum, for helping us reunite these paintings!)
  • The new slavery exhibit in the Boyhood Home (a rug pallet indicating where Sandy likely slept)
  • The "whitewashing bucket" that allows visitors to pose for some really fun photos!
  • The completion of the exterior of the Becky Thatcher House, complete with its new (original) color, sort of a honey brown like the Lincoln home (thanks to computer analysis).
  • The new webcam mounted on the Becky Thatcher House so visitors can wave at loved ones glued to their computer screens somewhere.
The Mark Twain Young Authors wave at the webcam so parents at home can "see" their kids. The young authors won scholarships to spend a week in Sam Clemens's hometown to work on their writing skills.

That's the short list!  If you haven't been to visit us during this "Year of Mark Twain," now is a perfect time with the changing leaves.