For seven months in 2012 and 2013, Charles Dickens came back to Lowell.
“Dickens in Lowell” was a series of events, exhibits and projects
celebrating the bicentenary of the author’s visit to the bustling city. While Dickens toured the mills and met workers, visitors to the modern celebration learned about his life and the historical context for his work.
“This was an excellent collaboration with many organizations, students and faculty and staff members,” says Archibald, who had more than 60 students help with the project from planning to execution. “It’s important to use international figures like Dickens and Jack Kerouac to connect people to the richness of Lowell.”
“The fund supports projects that add to the creative and cultural resources of the Commonwealth. The return on investment for these grants is an increase in the quality of life for all, attracting more people to live and work in the state,” says Beard. “UMass Lowell has been particularly good at understanding the purpose of the fund, and their response has been almost precisely what we envisioned.”
Legacy Projects Keep Dickens in Lowell
After the exhibit at the Boott Cotton Mills Gallery completed its run
, Archibald and Blackburn continued its goals with permanent projects. A panel from the original exhibit was unveiled at the LNHP Visitors Center next to the Kerouac section and a walking tour was developed to help visitors follow in Dickens’ footsteps. The tour is available as a brochure for brick and mortar tourists and as part of the new “Dickens in Lowell” website for digital travelers
“I told Nina I had this idea about Dickens and Lowell and she thought it was great, but said make sure you make the best of it, and we did with these lasting results,” says Archibald.
Scholars and Dickens fans from across the world have now seen “Dickens in Lowell” in its digital format. Nathalie Vanfasse, Prof. of English at Aix-Marseilles Université who is writing a book about Dickens' “American Notes,” expressed her gratitude for the website. She has used the site for her research and in class, encouraging students to explore the exhibit and resources.
“The abundant material provided online adds an invaluable visual dimension to some of the texts we study, thus making their evocation more vivid and striking,” writes Vanfasse. “I think this initiative will help many colleagues overseas, who, like me, teach Dickens's work to students whose background is often extremely remote from the realities of the Victorian period. I appreciate the lively, accessible but also really knowledgeable quality of the exhibition, [it sets] a new standard for the teaching and spreading of knowledge about Dickens. The availability of [the] exhibition online and in open access also furthers fruitful academic collaborations between UMass Lowell and universities worldwide.”