The Charles Dickens Museum, the Bloomsbury home to the writer’s books, manuscripts and letters where he wrote some of his most famous works, is urging the public to help raise £900,000 in match funding for a £2 million Lottery award.
The Georgian house, where Dickens wrote classics including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby between 1837 and 1839, holds arguably the world’s most comprehensive collection of ephemera relating to his career, from pictures and paintings to original versions of the Pickwick Papers.
Organisers are hoping to double the exhibition space and restore the original look of the building on the bicentenary of Dickens' birth.
Recreating the 19th century “architectural fabric” of the interiors, the plan is to unite the museum with an adjoining house and provide better displays. Modern storage facilities will protect the 10,000-item haul of Dickensia and provide visitor and education spaces.
Heritage Lottery Fund Chair Dame Jenny Abramsky said the museum was “a small place that packs a big punch” and “a real gem in the heart of London.”
“We’re particularly delighted that the museum is so determined to see the work completed by 2012, enabling it to celebrate Dickens’ bicentenary in true style,” she added.
“The investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund will help radically transform not just the building itself but the way people experience and learn about this internationally-revered literary master.”
Bestselling author Philip Pullman offered passionate support for the campaign.
“Charles Dickens’ genius was recognised immediately – he probably had the greatest public following of any writer, and the vitality and energy that pulses through every paragraph is just as palpable today,” he argued.
“We need to remind people of what a treasure we have in his work and how lucky we are to have him still alive in his books.
“The Dickens Museum exists to preserve his legacy and this Heritage Lottery Fund grant will help it reach many more people than ever before.
“Everyone who visits will benefit from a closer acquaintance with this most English, but most universal, of authors. It deserves the support of the nation.”