A Bed in the Museum

By LIZ CRAWFORD

In virtue of working on “Finding the Lost Museum” for months upon months, the Jenks Society often catches itself obsessing over the most minute details of Jenks’s personal life and affects. How many ongoing projects would he have in his office? What did he eat for breakfast? What color candle wax did he seal his envelopes with? These obsessive discussions are an attempt to find material evidence, to grasp any aspect of everyday life that might lead the group to better understand who Jenks was as a person, to deduce what made him real and relatable. Who was the mysterious adventurer that was unpleasant to some but beloved by others?

That is why it is so exciting when we come across poetic descriptions in primary sources. For instance, take “A Bed in the Museum” by Dallas Lore Sharp published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1935. When Steve Lubar, one of our tireless faculty advisors, first came across the piece, he immediately shared it with the group and a barrage of delighted messages followed exclaiming its virtues. Mark Dion, our other highly esteemed faculty advisor, called it “Our guideline forward”.

The entire piece is so quotable, you really need to read it all, but for a teaser:

“…Are you going to college?’ Certainly I was, though up to that instant I had scarcely known it, for it is quite impossible to explain how faraway and unreal a place ‘college’ had been to ‘my thoughts and opportunity. ‘But then and there I was as sure of going to college as I am now sure that I have been to college.

‘Well,’ said the old naturalist, ‘when you get ready to come, let me know.’· And when I got ready to come, I did let him know. I was out of my teens before I could write him that I was ready. But he had not forgotten, and back came his prompt reply on a postal card: ‘Come! You can share my room with me.’

How would you feel? What would you do if a great naturalist should tell you to come to college and share his room in the museum with him? And if he should tell you all that on a postal card? Could you believe it? No! Instead of believing it, you would grip that postal card in your hand, and go out alone into the fields, and along your old wood roads, and try to believe that you were you, and that the big solid earth still lay beneath your feet, and that you moved on feet and not on wings. You would hold your breath, open your hand, and, with all the courage of your soul, you would dare to read that postal again. Then you would whoop like a wild [person], and bolt away through the bushes until you stopped short somewhere, anywhere, to read that postal again…”

On the eve of Brown University’s 250th birthday, a quote like this really resonates for me as a current student. I had the similar reaction upon being accepted to the Public Humanities Masters program and I love being reminded of that elated feeling I felt after receiving my acceptance letter.

Rah, rah, Brunonia! Happy birthday Brown!

A family legacy’s humble beginnings:

Dallas Lore Sharp is an ancestor of the Joukowskys that are the namesake to Joukowsky Institute for Archeology and the Ancient World, which is the original location of the Jenks Museum.

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