Edward Elgar’s birthplace

Not all museums are housed in grand custom built buildings. Sometimes it is the building itself that is the Museum, none more so than the birthplace of a famous person, like an artist, writer or musician.
Edward Elgar, a British composer, famed for his Pomp and Circumstance Marches and Enigma Variations, was born in a house called The Firs in 1857. He only lived there two years, but given he liked to move about (twenty-one residences), this house is where his life is dedicated. The museum was established by his daughter, Carice, in 1934 when he died. As you would expect, there are original music manuscripts, letters (11,000), programmes, his bicycle, photographs and mementoes. The addition of a visitor’s centre, the Elgar Centre, was added in 2000.

Elgar wouldn’t have remembered his early life at the Firs. His father, who owned a music shop in Worcester, would bring musical friends to visit, inspiring the young Edward. But even after they left the house, Elgar would return again and again to visit the village, the connection established, and paving the way for the birthplace museum.

Elgar isn’t the only composer to have his home turned into a museum. Holst has a birthplace museum in the Cotswolds, and there are the Beatles childhood homes in Liverpool. Charles Dicken’s is in Portsmouth and Samuel Johnson’s in the centre of Lichfield.
The need to associate places with people is strong, even when the location doesn’t feature heavily in a person’s life. Placing objects related to a person somewhere personal adds that touch of reality, an intimacy, and dedicating a museum to one person focuses the mind on the impact that the individual has had on their time. Surely, keeping a collection intact and somewhere special is preferable to depositing it in a big museum?
If you had a collection in your name, art, music, objects, books, would you prefer to see them in one massive museum, easily accessible, but among many others, perhaps only partially on display, or kept close to where your family cherish your memory, even if that place is in the middle of a rural village?

A difficult choice. Should museums bring to the public eye the legacy of one individual to celebrate their contribution to society, or squeeze their life’s achievements and personal items into a house and add the personal touch?

11 comments

  1. Hello fellow A to Z challenger

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello. Nice to meet you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello nice to meet you too

        Like

  2. Tarkabarka · · Reply

    I like historic homes and I like the personal touch. I don’t know where I’d want my own museum to be, if I had any, but something smaller and cozier sounds nice 😀

    The Multicolored Diary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do too. I really enjoyed Samuel Johnson’s museum. It’s above a second hand bookshop.

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  3. I do like house museums, but if I were ever to have a museum about me, I think I might prefer to be placed alongside other artists or writers. But since it’ll never happen, I really don’t have to worry too much about it! lol
    Black and White: E for Eden

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    1. There’s something to be said for company, and being among other greats.

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  4. I like the idea of an intimate setting in an out of the way place near family to a larger venue. If I was a large installation type artist maybe having my works in a museum or open air park would be nice.

    My “E” Tull song for today:

    A2Z 2021 Jethro Tull Songs Day 5 – Ears of Tin from Rock Island (1989)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It probably does depend on what you’re famous for. A musician doesn’t need much space compared to an artist. Maybe a house with a very large garden.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the personal touch. I remember being very moved by being able to go to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

    Like

  6. […] by Philip Bate, but no mention xylophone on the website. The Holst Museum in Cheltenham, like the Elgar birthplace, will satisfy your curiosity about the composer; no musical instrumentals on […]

    Like

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