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There’s a Lot of Mold Infesting the Mark Twain Museum in Connecticut

It’s attached to his old house.

The library of the Mark Twain House, in 1995.
The library of the Mark Twain House, in 1995. Jack E. Boucher/Library of Congress

In the preface of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the narrator describes meeting a mysterious man on a castle tour. As they walk through the hallways, his new friend begins talking about the Knights of the Round Table, speaking of ancient events as if they were yesterday.

Suddenly, the narrator feels he is walking back in time, too. “I seemed to move among the specters and shadows and dust and mold of a gray antiquity,” the narrator says. “How old, old, unspeakably old and faded and dry and musty and ancient he came to look as he went on!”

Unfortunately for Twain, no matter how fresh and lively his words remain, the trappings of his life are getting old, faded, shadowy and dusty. And now, according to the conservators at Hartford’s Mark Twain House & Museum, a whole bunch of them are moldy as well.

The exterior of Mark Twain's old house.
The exterior of Mark Twain’s old house. Cliff/CC BY 2.0

The mold problem centers on the Mark Twain Museum, which was built next to the historic house in 2003. Thanks to subpar HVAC systems and a leaky roof, mold snuck into the museum’s storage room sometime in 2015, the Hartford Courant reports. By now, it has crept into thousands of artifacts, including furniture, “metal, glass, and leather items,” and some Twain first editions. The house itself—where Twain and his family lived from 1874 to 1891—is relatively unaffected.

Thanks to insurance, state bonds, and grants from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the museum is embarking on a million-dollar mold removal project. They’ve already fixed the HVAC and the roof, and the next step—the big wipeoff—begins next week. Six people will take on the task, which will probably last three to four months. No word on whether they’ll come after the shadows and specters next.

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