Permanent Exhibition at the Tennessee Williams Museum

As the 100th anniversary of Tennessee Williams’ birth approached in 2011, Dennis Beaver, local businessman and community activist, met with staff members at the Key West Art & Historical Society to discuss ways to celebrate this milestone event.  They felt strongly that Key West needed to honor this international celebrity who had been an island resident from 1949 to 1983.  Poetry and painting contests were organized and a reception set for the playwright’s May 26 birthday.  Well over one hundred people attended the birthday celebration.  This convinced the organizers that there was a great deal of interest in Tennessee Williams.

Tennessee Williams at his home in Key West
Tennessee Williams at his home in Key West

That interest prompted Beaver to establish an exhibit of Williams’ memorabilia that he had been collecting for many years.  He put his collection on display in a community center at 513 Truman Avenue.  In 2012, the Exhibit was taken down and stored while 7,000 square feet of new and expanded exhibit space was added to the building.  On March 26, 2013, in honor of Tennessee Williams’ birthday, Mayor of Key West Craig Cates joined Beaver and other community leaders in cutting the ribbon that officially reopened the expanded and permanent Museum.  Also, during this time the Museum became incorporated by the State of Florida.  A board of directors was assembled to provide guidance and oversight.  By-laws were written and approved.  In 2014, the Museum was designated a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and a membership program was established.

One of two typewriters used by Tennessee Williams in Key West
One of two typewriters used by Tennessee Williams in Key West

The goal of the Museum is to keep the legacy alive of one of the greatest American writers of the last century.  It offers visitors an entertaining and informative self-guided tour as well as curator led tours.  Included in the Museum is the largest collection of Tennessee Williams memorabilia available to the public.  It includes an extensive collection of photographs, most of which were taken in Key West, first edition plays and books, rare newspaper and magazine articles, videos, and a typewriter used by the author while writing in Key West.  Historic and hard to find artifacts and materials continue to be donated and purchased to enhance the Museum.

The Tennessee Williams Museum continues to be a thriving organization striving to meet its goal of keeping alive through the exhibition and annual Birthday Celebration the important literary legacy of this Key West resident.

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