Library, Archives, and Museum Collections

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The Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House has a long and distinguished history of owners, occupants and visitors that extends over two centuries, from 1759 until 1972. The association with Henry W. Longfellow (1807-1882) and family began in 1837, when Longfellow came to live in the Craigie House as a tenant and remained there for the rest of his life. In 1913, the children of Henry W. Longfellow formed the Longfellow House Trust to preserve and manage the property as a house museum for the education and inspiration of the public.

 

Longfellow House Trust (Longfellow's adult children at dedication of Longfellow Park)
October 29, 1914

Longfellow House Trust

The intent of the trust was to preserve the house as the best example of colonial architecture and to serve as a memorial to Henry W. Longfellow and George Washington, who used the House as his home and Headquarters from July 1775 to April 1776. In addition to preserving the historic home and grounds, the family provided that the furnishings remain intact in the house. Numerous other personal items were also left in the house including the library, extensive papers, photographs and correspondence of Henry W. Longfellow.

Depicted from left to right are Harriet Spelman Longfellow, Edith Longfellow Dana, Mrs. Daniel Chester French, Annie Allegra Longfellow Thorp, and Ernest Longfellow.

 
Harry Dana working on collections
Harry L. Dana working in the House archives
Longfellow House
c. 1942

Harry Dana, First Curator

From 1917 to 1950, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, grandson of H.W.Longfellow, made the House his home. He served as its first curator and took particular interest in documenting and organizing his grandfather’s papers and library. By the early 20th century various writers and scholars were requesting access to the House and archives for research. At this time, H.W.L. (Harry) Dana was instrumental in encouraging various family members to deposit their personal papers, books, special clothing items and photographs at the House, thus creating an extensive archives (765,000 items) representing 300 years of American social history through multiple generations of the Longfellow, Wadsworth, Appleton and Dana families.

Harry added to the archives by purchasing objects and papers related to the house history (including the American Revolution) and of his two grandfathers, Henry W. Longfellow and Richard Henry Dana, Jr. After Harry Dana’s death in 1950, many of the papers of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were deposited at Harvard University and later donated to Harvard by the National Park Service. All the other family papers, however, remained in the house. 

 
NPS accepts the house from the family
Family donates House to NPS
1974

Congressman Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill and Mayor Sullivan greet a member of the NPS staff

National Park Service

In 1972 the House with all its objects, furnishings, library and family papers was donated to the National Park Service. Today the house retains most of its original furnishings from the Longfellow family occupancy 1843-1928. All the objects throughout the house have a high level of written and visual documentation. The house and collections serve as both a destination for visitors and as a resource/research center for students, teachers and scholars from around the world. The furnished rooms on the first and second floor are open to the public for tour. Only about 15% of the total 35,000 item museum collection is on exhibit in the historic rooms. The remaining items are in the house study collection. The collections, as a whole, possess a high degree of integrity and great associative value with the house and family.

The museum objects, archives, historic structures and grounds are interconnected on many different levels which allow the researcher to explore the house and its history in great depth in an interdisciplinary manner.

 

 


© 2004 Longfellow National Historic Site