Key West to Honor Playwright Tennessee Williams with World-Class Museum

An exhibit memorializing iconic playwright Tennessee Williams, who called Key West home from the late 1940s until his death in 1983, has expanded to become the Tennessee Williams Museum under new dual leadership.

The museum evolved from the popular Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit following its merger with the Key West Art & Historical Society, and is to debut Friday, Dec. 15. 

Williams lived in Key West as an openly gay man with his partner Frank Merlo, and had a pivotal influence on the island’s literary culture. The award-winning playwright penned classics including “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

According to founder and curator Dennis Beaver, the exhibit features the largest permanent collection of Williams memorabilia currently on display for the public.

Highlights include personal photographs of Williams at home with Merlo and friends, first-edition plays and books, a typewriter used by Williams when he lived in Key West, an artist-crafted model of his island home and even the original steps from the film adaptation of Williams’ play “The Rose Tattoo,” which was filmed in Key West.

Visitors to the new museum can take entertaining and informative self-guided tours as well as prearranged curator-led tours showcasing Williams’ history and legacy. Expanded elements include larger viewing and display areas for the extensive artifact collection and a gift shop.

Long passionate about preserving Williams’ legacy, Beaver plans to remain as guest curator and consultant for the museum. He also intends to acquire and encourage donations of additional artifacts for the collection.

In addition to the Tennessee Williams Museum, the Key West Art & Historical Society operates the Fort East Martello Museum, Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters and the Custom House Museum, which contains a display of Williams’ original paintings.


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