London’s Dickens Museum reopens after makeover

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The rooms are furnished with Dickens‘ own possessions _ his writing desk and chair, his wardrobe and shaving kit, copies of his books annotated in his cramped handwriting.

“We’re trying to make it feel like a home,” Schweizer said. “As if Dickens had just stepped out.”

The museum does not skip over the darker periods of Dickens‘ life.

On the top floor, the former servants’ quarters hold a set of bars from Marshalsea prison, where Dickens‘ father was imprisoned for his debts, and jars from the boot-polish factory where 12-year-old Charles was sent to work.

The experience of financial insecurity marked Dickens for life, and drove his workaholic quest for success. He wrote more than 20 books, had 10 children, traveled the world on lecture tours and campaigned for social change until his death from a stroke in 1870 at the age of 58.

The museum’s directors have been criticized for shutting the facility during most of the bicentenary of Dickens‘ birth_ and during the tourism bonanza that accompanied the London Olympics.

It reopens Monday, just in time for a Dickensian Christmas, complete with readings, performances of “A Christmas Carol,” mulled wine and mince pies.

The museum hopes to draw 45,000 visitors a year, a 50 percent rise on pre-refurbishment levels. Schweizer thinks Dickens‘ future has never been rosier.

“There has always been interest. I think the bicentenary has taken it to a whole new level,” Schweizer said. “There is a great hunger of Dickens, especially in these times” of economic austerity and uncertainty.

As evidence, he held up a London newspaper proclaiming news of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy under the headline “Kate Expectations.”

“People still get all the references,” he said.

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Online: http://www.dickensmuseum.com/

Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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