This past August the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections put on display what is thought to be only the second known photographic image of Emily Dickinson. For those English teachers out there, showing this image while teaching the works of Dickinson is a no-brainer. But there are other ways that I believe we can use this in the classroom.
Staying in the English classroom, you could use this as a great story starter and have students write a story about what Emily and her friend, Kate Scott Turner, did leading up to this picture, or after the picture was taken. The official release from Amherst says that this photo was taken during a visit Kate had to Amherst. As it stats in the article, it appears that Dickinson is wearing clothes a bit older than standard during the era. This could lead to some interesting research papers as to why Dickinson would wear clothes not current to the style of the day and if there is evidence in her poetry to support this choice of clothing.
Being a former history teacher, I see nothing by research possibilities. Any one of these questions could be used:
- Given the history of photographs, why are there only two images of Emily Dickinson?
- If a third photograph of Dickinson was to surface, where do you think it would be most likely to surface and why?
- You can add this question for any historical figure of which there aren’t a lot of images, like Billy the Kid
- Do you believe that any of Emily’s poems were written about Kate Scott Turner? (Might be more for English than History)
- How much do you think it cost Emily and Kate to have this picture taken? What would that cost today with inflation?
- Going off nothing more than this picture, who do you think most likely took it? (No need for exact names, but just a general type of person. Was it a professional or laborer? Were they literate? What type of house did they live in?)
Just a few of my ideas. How do you think you could use it in your classroom?
For more information on this picture, check out this post on Open Culture.