A Key West exhibit memorialising iconic playwright Tennessee Williams has expanded to become the Tennessee Williams Museum and will open in the Florida Keys island city on 15 December.
The museum has evolved from the popular Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit following its merger with the Key West Art & Historical Society. Located at 513 Truman Avenue in the heart of Key West, the new museum is a little over a mile from Duncan Street where Williams resided for 34 years, a site that literary fans regularly seek out to view the historic property.
After arriving in Key West in the late 1940s, Williams lived as an openly gay man with his partner Frank Merlo and had a pivotal influence on the island’s literary culture. The award-winning playwright penned classics including ‘The Glass Menagerie,’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.'
According to founder and curator Dennis Beaver, the exhibit features the largest permanent collection of Williams memorabilia currently on display to the public. Highlights include personal photographs of Williams at home with Merlo and friends, first-edition plays and books, a typewriter used by Williams when he lived in Key West, an artist-crafted model of his island home and even the original steps from the film adaptation of Williams’ play ‘The Rose Tattoo,’ which was filmed in Key West.
Visitors to the new museum, which is scheduled to be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, can take entertaining and informative self-guided tours as well as prearranged curator-led tours showcasing Williams’ history and legacy. Expanded elements include larger viewing and display areas for the extensive artefact collection.
“I am delighted that the literary legacy of Tennessee Williams, ‘outed’ as gay by the press early in his career, will flourish under the stewardship of the Key West Art & Historical Society whose goal is to keep Key West history alive and accessible to the public,” said Beaver, who also founded the annual multi-week Tennessee Williams Birthday Celebration. In 2018 the celebration runs from 28 February to 9 April and includes a short story writing contest, film screenings and theatre productions of Williams’ work.
For British bookworms keen to learn more about Key West’s literary history, the Old Town Literary Walking Tour runs each Friday and Saturday. The tour illuminates stories of writers that have called Key West home and features the former homes and favourite haunts of writers including Williams and Robert Frost. The 90-minute tours depart Fridays at 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m. from in front of the Monroe County Public Library at 700 Fleming St. Of course, literary fans visiting Key West can also stop by the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum at 907 Whitehead St. to explore the legendary writer’s residence and see some of the 40-50 cats — many of them six-toed — that live on the property.
For more information on the Tennessee Williams Museum, visit www.kwahs.org
For more information on the Literary Walking Tour, visit www.kwls.org/tour
For more information on the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, visit www.hemingwayhome.com
For more information on the Florida Keys & Key West, visit: www.fla-keys.co.uk
An elaborate model of Tennessee Williams' Duncan Street house in Key West by artist Jane Rohrschneider. Photo credit: Carol Tedesco