By Lauren Lipton

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — When you walk into the James A. Michener Art Museum, in Doylestown (Bucks County), it’s hard to believe that this beautiful jewel that now hosts beautiful exhibits was once something quite different.

“The Michener Museum started in 1885 as a county prison,” says Lutzi Fischer (below), a docent at the museum.  “Even though the area is called the ‘Genius Belt’ because there were so many artists, writers, producers, and songwriters who lived here, we never had a museum.”

 

(Lutzi Fischer, a docent in the Michener Art Museum, stands in front of an exhibit about the institution's eponym.  Photo by Lauren Lipton)

(Lutzi Fischer, a docent in the Michener Art Museum, stands in front of an exhibit about the institution’s eponym. Photo by Lauren Lipton)

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It took a long time and a lot of work, but the Michener Art Museum, named after the famous author, was founded in 1988.

“The way we got the name of the Michener Museum is, Mr. Michener was a native,” Fischer explains.  “He lived here, he produced here, he wrote here.  We have pictures of the houses that he lived in.  Because they were very poor, sometimes his mother, if she could not pay the rent, was thrown out, and the kids would wander through Doylestown with their suitcases, trying to find a place.”

And, she says, the museum also pays tribute to the author for whom it is named.

“We have his desk, original pens, pencils. Everything in that room is original — it all belonged to Michener,” she notes.

(James Michener's desk, in his former home, is protected in a glass case along with tools and mementos of the late author.  Photo by Lauren Lipton)

(James Michener’s desk, from his last home, is protected in a glass case along with tools and mementos of the late author. Photo by Lauren Lipton)

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Michener, who died in 1997, was the author of more than 50 books, both fiction and nonfiction, including Tales of the South Pacific (later made into an iconic Broadway show), Hawaii, The Bridges at Toko-ri, Centennial, Chesapeake, Space, and Texas.

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Hear the expanded interview in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 6:42)…

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And for this week, that’s “Positively Philadelphia!”

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