Herman Melville Memorial Room

Herman Melville was a boy of fourteen when he first visited Pittsfield in the summer of 1833, staying with his uncle Thomas at the farm later known as "Broadhall," now the Pittsfield Country Club. He would return several years later to work on that farm and in 1837 he taught for a term in the Sikes district school. In 1850 Melville purchased a property adjoining the Robert Melville farmhouse, calling it Arrowhead. Here, together with his burgeoning family, he would spend thirteen of the most productive years of his life. Between 1850-1863 would appear not only Melville's masterwork, Moby Dick, but also the novels Pierre and The Confidence Man, as well as various short stories, among them the five Piazza Tales, The Apple-Tree Table, and I and My Chimney. During these years the author would also form friendships with Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and other Berkshire men of letters.

It is therefore particularly fitting that a national center for Melville studies is located in the Berkshire Athenaeum. Established in 1953, the Herman Melville Memorial Room has grown into the world's largest collection of Melville personal memorabilia and a rich source of research material.

The Herman Melville Memorial Room was established by the planning and generosity of Dr. Henry A Murray of Harvard University. In addition to Dr. Murray, principal donors of Melville books and memorabilia have included Melville's grand-daughter, Eleanor Melville Metcalf, and the author's great-nieces, Agnes Morewood, Helen Gansevoort Morewood and Margaret T Morewood. Scholars throughout the world have graciously contributed monographs and reprints of research in Melville studies

Our Melville Collection includes:

  • First editions of Melville works

  • Manuscripts, family letters, and annotated volumes from Melville's library

  • Paintings, prints, and photographs of the author, his family and friends

  • A wide selection of biographies and critical studies

  • The Willis I Milham Scrimshaw Collection.

We continue to encourage and welcome donations of Melville material, particularly manuscripts and copies of Melville studies. It is through the thoughtfulness of Melville enthusiasts and scholars that the Athenaeum's Melville Memorial Room continues as an active, growing research center dedicated to expanding public awareness of one of the nation's most distinguished authors.

For further information about the Herman Melville Memorial Room, contact the Athenaeum's Local History Department at (413) 499-9480 ext. 204 or at localhistory@pittsfieldlibrary.org. If you’re interested in visiting Melville’s home Arrowhead, you may use your library card to take advantage of our Museum Pass Program, which is generously funded by the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum.