Following their tour around the United States where they visited and presented at various Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) branches, Museum Trustee, Martyn Dell and Collections Volunteer, Sue Dell share stories of their travels:
We have recently returned from our fourth Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) conference in Colonial Willamsburg, Virginia, which was attended by around 850 people and was an outstanding success. This year’s theme was Northanger Abbey, whose publication bicentenary was celebrated in 2018.
We are constantly staggered that such a complex, professional and ambitious conference is organised almost entirely by volunteers.
We have made several close friends through JASNA over the years and it was two of them who made the suggestion last year that if we were attending this year’s conference, it might be worth us extending our stay and offering talks to some JASNA branches.
After several months careful planning, our ‘US tour’ comprised events at:
Emory University, Atlanta Atlanta Region
Carroll University, Waukesha (just outside Milwaukee) Wisconsin Region
Williamsburg national JASNA conference
Goucher College, Baltimore Maryland Region
Washington DC Washington DC, Metropolitan Region – This was the branch that gave a generous donation to the Museum, enabling us to have our third set of replica wallpapers produced and it was a great joy to be able to thank many of the members personally for their support.
Martyn delivered presentations on A Year in the Life of Jane Austen’s House Museum, which gave a ‘behind the scenes’ look at recent events and projects.
Sue’s talks ranged from Let There Be Light which covered the importance of lighting in Austen’s novels and time period, to Jane’s quilt and the community quilt produced in 2017/18. Additionally, she ran workshops on the ‘English paper piecing’ method of patchwork.
We were mindful that all the time we were in the US – apart from a bit of ‘down time’ in Chicago and Washington - we were acting as ambassadors for Jane Austen’s House. These duties were very much shared in Williamsburg where the team included our Director Mary Guyatt, Chairman of Trustees Isabel Hughes and Carol Chernega, who gave a wonderful conference presentation on the Museum garden and sold treasures from our gift shop.
We had the most exhilarating and enjoyable month. All our hosts met us with real kindness and generosity and we greatly enjoyed renewing old friendships and making new ones.
Although our social media offering means that increasing numbers of people from all over the world are actively engaged in our shared love of Jane, we are very aware that many people will never have the opportunity to visit Chawton in person. Accordingly, it was wonderful to be able to share some of the spirit of Jane’s house and life with friends in the United States.
As we frequently muse – what would Jane make of all this?!