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The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives

January 21 through May 22, 2011

Exhibitions | Online

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Manuscript journals of Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), 1837–61. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909.

How do we tell the stories of our lives? For centuries, people have turned to diaries to mark time, sort out creative problems, help them through crises, comfort them in solitude or pain, or capture memories for the future. Today, as we find new ways to document our unfolding lives—in blogs, online diaries, and social networks—this exhibition looks back over several centuries to explore the enduring drive to leave a trace of our passing days. The personal writings featured here—all from the Morgan's permanent collection—reveal spiritual journeys, artistic ambition, and everyday rhythms. Some were kept private, others shared with a lover or friend. Together they represent a chorus of voices—each unique, yet bridging time and experience in their expression of love, pain, loss, and joy.

In this online exhibition, we invite you to learn about a selection of featured diaries, subscribe to the podcast, and download the exhibition audio guide.

This exhibition is sponsored by CastleRock Management.
Generous support is provided by Liz and Rod Berens and by the William C. Bullitt Foundation.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.