A Preview of the New Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library Is Open for Banned Books Week

Thos Robinson/Stringer/Getty Images
Thos Robinson/Stringer/Getty Images

Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, and Harrison Bergeron, is a legendary figure in the literature world. His blend of science fiction and politics and his irreverent writing style helped him become both one of the most admired and most censored writers of all time. Now, as Smithsonian reports, a museum and library dedicated to Vonnegut's life and legacy is reopening in his hometown.

The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library initially opened in Indianapolis in 2011, but closed earlier this year due to space constraints. After a several-month hiatus, the institution is back at a new address. From September 22 to 28, visitors can get a "sneak peek" of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum at 543 Indiana Avenue, just a few miles away from the author's childhood home. The museum hopes to re-open permanently at the site soon.

Kurt Vonnegut was born to a wealthy family in Indianapolis on November 11, 1922. After living through the Great Depression and serving in World War II, Vonnegut settled in Cape Cod and penned his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. He struggled as a writer for years, and it wasn't until the publication of Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969 that he became a household name. His most successful book was also his most controversial, and it's still being banned in schools decades later.

The preview of the reopened Kurt Vonnegut Museum coincides with National Banned Books Week. Many of the artifacts from the original museum will be on display, including Vonnegut's sketches, a replica of his typewriter, and his Purple Heart. Guests will also be invited to explore a recreation of the author's writing studio and browse a “freedom of expression exhibition" stocked with 100 of the most frequently banned books in the U.S.

Admission into the museum preview costs $20 online, and $25 for tickets at the door. Doors open at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (Sunday noon to 5 p.m.), and special events related to censorship and free speech will be taking place there all week. You can purchase tickets here.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Oscar Wilde's Gold Friendship Ring Recovered Nearly 20 Years After It Was Stolen

Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images
Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

After missing for 17 years, a piece of literary history has been found. As Smithsonian.com reports, a gold ring that writer Oscar Wilde gifted to his friend is back home at Oxford's Magdalen College, following its theft from the school in 2002.

The friendship ring's history at Oxford dates back to 1876, when Wilde was studying there with his friends Reginald Harding and William Ward. Ward was planning to drop out of school to travel, and Wilde and Harding wanted to give him something to remember them by. The gift—an 18-karat gold ring shaped like a belt buckle—is engraved with the initials of each member of the trio and a Greek inscription that translates to “Gift of love, to one who wishes love."

The ring wound up back at Oxford, where it was kept with a collection of Oscar Wilde artifacts at the university's Magdalen College until 2002. That year, a former college custodian named Eamonn Andrews broke into the building through a skylight and got away with the friendship ring and three unrelated medals. The thief was eventually apprehended thanks to DNA he left at the scene, but by then it was too late: He had already pawned the jewelry for less than $200. The gold band is estimated to be worth around $70,000 today.

Hopes for the keepsake's recovery deflated after that. Investigators assumed that it had been melted down by scrap dealers and declined to pursue the case any further. That seemed like the end of the story until 2015, when art detective Arthur Brand (known as the "Indiana Jones of the Art World") heard whispers of a black market ring that fit a similar description to the missing item. Brand theorizes that after originally being stolen from Oxford, the ring wound up in one of the safe-deposit boxes that got looted during the infamous Hatton Garden heist of 2015. After the heist, it hit the market again and landed on his radar.

With help from William Veres—a London antiques dealer—and George Crump—a man with connections to the British underground crime scene—Brand determined that the ring had recently switched hands. The new owner was shocked to hear that the unusual Victorian ring once belonged to Wilde and was fully cooperative in returning it to the college.

The ring will resume its official spot in Magdalen College's collection at a small ceremony on December 4.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Charlotte Brontë's Final "Little Book" Returning to Haworth After $665,000 Auction Bid

Brontë Parsonage Museum, Crowdfunder
Brontë Parsonage Museum, Crowdfunder

Soon after his father gave him 12 toy soldiers as a gift, Branwell Brontë and the three Brontë sisters—Charlotte, Emily, and Anne—established an imaginary, miniature land called the Glass Town Federation where the soldiers could reign. To supplement their game, 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë wrote a series of six books beginning in 1830 called “The Young Men’s Magazine,” which she made tiny enough for the soldiers to “read.”

Four of the books are kept at the family’s former home, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum, in Haworth, Yorkshire. A fifth volume has been lost since the 1930s. Now, after a lengthy fundraising endeavor, the Brontë Society has purchased the last remaining volume at a Paris auction. It’ll soon be displayed alongside the other issues in the museum.

It isn’t the first time the Brontë Society tried to bring the book back home. According to The New York Times, it surfaced at an auction in Sotheby’s in 2011, but the society was outbid by the Paris-based Museum of Letters and Manuscripts, which later folded after being accused of fraud.

The Guardian reports that upon hearing the item would soon be up for auction again, the Brontë Society launched a month-long public campaign to raise money for its purchase, with the public support of Dame Judi Dench, honorary president of the Brontë Society. They crowdfunded about $110,000, and the National Heritage Memorial Fund along with other organizations will cover the rest of the $777,000 cost (bid and fees included).

The 4000-word book measures about 1.5 inches by 2.5 inches and contains all the trappings of a quality literature magazine—ads, stories, and writerly wit. One ad, for example, was placed by “six young men” who “wish to let themselves all a hire for the purpose in cleaning out pockets they are in reduced CIRCUMSTANCES.” And one of the three original stories includes a scene similar to the one in Jane Eyre when Bertha sets Mr. Rochester’s bed on fire.

“Charlotte wrote this minuscule magazine for the toy soldiers she and her siblings played with, and as we walk through the same rooms they did, it seems immensely fitting that it is coming home,” Brontë Parsonage Museum principle curator Ann Dinsdale said in a statement.

[h/t The Guardian]

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