Back in 1895, Mark Twain signed a picture of himself. No doubt he did that a lot.
One of the photographs somehow landed in a file at the West Hartford library long ago, where it was quickly forgotten until librarians unearthed it as they moved everything out in preparation for the ongoing expansion. Pretty neat find, I’d say.
But what happened next is peculiar and troubling.
According to a story in the Courant, the town shipped off the pictures and other artifacts to an auction gallery in New York City to find out their value and perhaps sell them. Library officials planned to put them up for sale if they could get enough money, though it’s unclear who set the minimum value or why.
Well, I’m here to tell you that we shouldn’t be selling off a signed picture of Mark Twain that belongs to my town. We should be hanging it on the wall of the library as an inspiration to generations to come, a small tribute to the nation’s finest writer, who happened to live just down Farmington Avenue for many years.
I’m perplexed why officials would think of selling it — assuming it’s not worth a vast fortune (which it isn’t) — and am horrified that they are talking about donating it to some kind of charity auction. Yes, really. They apparently think it would be best to let it vanish into some rich man’s home instead of putting it on display in a place of honor in our library, where it clearly belongs.
Twain was a neighbor. Let’s treat him like one, even now.
The picture isn’t a way to raise money. It’s a way to raise our eyes.