by Silvia Meave*
© 2007 Photo Courtesy of MidnightDreary/Wikipedia used with permission.
I knew that the Edgar Allan Poe's House and Museum in Baltimore may be closed next 2012 due to budgetary problems, just after my first article about this great American author had just been published in Yahoo! So I decided to write again about the genius of literary horror since it seems that a curse like those that weighed upon Poe's characters threatens about two centuries of cultural heritage.
The Baltimore City's Department of Planning that has been financing the operation of Poe's House and Museum through the local Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) for more than 30 years, recently announced that this historical landmark "must become self-sufficient or it must be closed," according to a post in The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore website.
Thousands of worldwide fans of Edgar Allan Poe's literary work have started an online campaign to sign a petition addressed to Baltimore's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake requesting to keep subsidizing the museum which welcomes around 5,000 visitors per year and it is one of the main tourism attractions in the city.
This online campaign is promoted by The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, actor Mark Redfield (who played the renowned writer in a 2006 movie), as well as other enthusiasts of Poe's stories. This campaign advocates to keep subsidies for the Poe's House and Museum in Baltimore by reason of the "immeasurable" rewards it brings to Baltimore City, in terms of culture, heritage and prestige.
"Edgar Allan Poe is a giant in American Literature and its history. He is a "son of Baltimore". His fans and devotees around the globe look to Baltimore, his final resting place, and especially the Poe House and Museum, as fixed beacons of his life and work. We must not let them down," petitioners wrote to Baltimore's mayor.
The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore says the writer's house is a little "line item" in the City's annual budget because it requires some $80,000.00 to operate. Not too much money if we consider that the local government promotes the Edgar Allan Poe's house as one of its main historical landmarks and acknowledges that " he was the grandson of Baltimore Revolutionary War patriot, David Poe Sr.," as stated in the Baltimore's official website.
In 1941, the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, which main task is to promote Poe's literary work and his contribution to American and World literature, saved the building from demolition. However, since most of the work at the Poe Society is done by volunteers, members of this organization say they have no enough funds to finance the house and museum operations.
Edgar Allan Poe's enthusiasts think it is difficult to make it a "self-sustaining" enterprise, just because cultural endeavors are not always financially profitable business; however they are invariably beneficial to enhance social environment.
Neighborhood surrounding Poe's house in Baltimore would benefit from the long-term museum's governmental financing if the whole community gets involved in a social and economic development program based on cultural activities linked to the Poe's house. It is possible to attract more visitors to the museum and to the city, since Poe is one of the American literature's founding fathers and his house is indeed a national treasure. Last but not least, current Baltimore city government has the opportunity to be the first one actually interested to protect the writer's legacy. ♦