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Posts Tagged ‘Woods Cabinet’

Appleton Museum GuideWhen Millicent Todd Bingham and Richard Sewall wrote their biographies of Emily Dickinson, they each included a section about the influence upon the poet of President Edward Hitchcock and Amherst College. Bingham and Sewall sought to show that one can see in Dickinson’s poems – in her ideas, imagery, and unexpected vocabulary – the effect of Hitchcock and the college he helped establish.

The science cabinets at the College were among Dickinson’s Amherst-related influences.  They housed specimens of minerals, shells, fossils, and animals gathered by Hitchcock and his colleagues over the course of their careers and were important campus attractions.  Edward Dickinson, the poet’s father, contributed $50 to the Woods cabinet and $100 to Appleton, and his children were no doubt part of the thousands of people who visited them over the decades. There is evidence that Emily attended the opening of the Woods Cabinet (mineralogy, meteorology, geology) in the Octagon in 1848, and she probably also visited the Appleton Cabinet (zoology and ichnology) when it opened in 1855.

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I really need to get out more. I mean out around campus. Despite having worked at Amherst for over a decade, I somehow never heard about the boulder sitting on the south side of the Octagon until recently. On the occasions I’ve gone past it, I’m sure I didn’t notice it.

A large bowlder and friends

A large bowlder and friends

This may seem like a minor offense – it is, after all, just a rock on campus, right? But knowing the history of the College is mandatory in the archives. It’s our raison d’être. We seek to know everything about our turf, and then to make it possible for others to know it too.

So when I heard about this boulder, I immediately reached into my bag of paranoias: surely I alone was ignorant of the facts surrounding the boulder. I would have to hide my ignorance from my colleagues. My stomach churned.

But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps other people don’t know about the rock either. On the assumption, therefore, that my reader may also be ignorant of the facts, let me set them down here with the few relevant documents that remain to us.

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