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Help Preserve Endangered Illustrations of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’

By Harriet Staff

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Hyperallergic gives some love to Liverpool illustrator and sidewalk artist James Carling (1857-1887), whose affinity with Edgar Allan Poe was such that he had “followed his meaning so close as to be merged into his individuality.” Jeremy Polacek writes: “Misty and dark, Carling’s drawings mirror Poe’s terrific dream-logic, where the mind (or the psyche) is often the greatest enemy, not ravens, no matter their malevolence.” “Sadly, Carling died in 1887, just a few years after his fantastic creation. . . . His illustrations of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’ went unpublished, essentially never known to history.”

Fortunately, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, VA, bought the drawings in the 1930s. “Since 1975, however, the illustrations have been rarely seen, replaced by black and white photographs. Time and decay has been catching up to them. Glued to acidic cardboard, the 43 wash drawings are beginning to darken and degrade.” More:

But Richmonders keep asking after them; a 2012 show, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the museum, brought the originals out of storage for the first time in years—having the effect of only adding to the clamor. Responding to all the interest, the Museum explored ways to conserve their exclusive collection, the largest such in the world of Carling’s work, but kept coming up short.

Finding the task of raising the necessary money for conservation too steep, the small museum turned to crowdsourcing. On September 23rd the Poe Museum launched a $60,000 Kickstarter effort to conserve each illustration and then photograph it, the goal being to put together a book of the collection and mount a traveling exhibition. “For such a small museum it’s really hard. With Kickstarter, it’s easier to reach an international audience, Semtner said, adding, “It shows Poe has friends all around the world.”

Also, “[t]he drawings were selected this year as one of Virginia’s Top 10 Most Endangered Artifacts by the Virginia Association of Museums.” Watch the Museum’s Kickstarter video below, and help save “The Raven”!

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.