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UMass Lowell to Display Jack Kerouac Belongings Found in Fla. Home

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Boston Globe
09/23/2015
By Andy Rosen

For years after Jack Kerouac died, the interior of the author’s Florida home looked much as it had when he was rushed to a hospital in 1969. When two University of Massachusetts Lowell professors were invited inside four decades later, they found Kerouac’s wooden desk arranged with meaningful items.

Among the objects still in the Lowell native’s St. Petersburg writing space in 2013, according to UMass Lowell were “family photos, religious figures from both Christianity and Buddhism, cat carriers he fashioned by hand from wood and a telephone book from his hometown.”


Fans of the Beat legend will get a chance next month to examine some of the items recovered from his home, when the university’s Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for Public Humanities opens a show to display his belongings. Kerouac was 47 when he died.

Exhibits will include the desk, figurines, and a windbreaker from Lowell Tech — which is now part of UMass Lowell. The show opens Oct. 8 and continues through the fall semester, officials said.

In 2013, professors Todd Tietchen and Michael Millner came to Kerouac’s home at the invitation of John Sampas, Kerouac’s literary executor, who is also the brother of the author’s wife.

“There was something uncanny – something simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar – about moving through the house that Jack moved through, touching the daily objects of life that Jack touched and used,” Millner, director of the Kerouac Center, said in a statement.

“We left Jack’s house with a different sense of him as a person than we had entered with, and we hope to capture that new sense in this exhibit.”

Tietchen, who has edited collections of Kerouac’s work including “The Haunted Life,” a previously unpublished novella, likened the project to sorting through the possessions of a departed family member or friend.

“I went into the experience thinking like a scholar, wondering what we might discover in Kerouac’s final milieu,” he said. “Once we started to handle Jack and Stella’s belongings, however, things began to change for me. ... I began to care about the journey in a way I hadn’t initially expected.”

Kerouac was born and grew up in Lowell and has left a lasting footprint in the Merrimack Valley city where his tales of a burgeoning American subculture were once greeted with chagrin.

In 1988, Lowell dedicated a memorial park of walking paths in his honor, and last year Sampas unveiled a new memorial stone at Kerouac’s burial plot. The inscription bears a line from Kerouac’s famous “On the Road,” reading “The road is life.”

The UMass Lowell exhibit will open at Allen House with a 3 p.m. event on Oct. 8. Tietchen and Millner will speak, and the event will be followed by a discussion entitled “Race, Ethnicity and the American Hipster.”