Where the wild things aren't

Plans to open the home of children's author Maurice Sendak to the public remain unclear

RIDGEFIELD, CONNECTICUT • The characters of Maurice Sendak may live in the imaginations of children around the world, but many of those characters were born in a wooded residential neighbourhood on the outskirts of this small town, in a rambling shingle house where Sendak lived and worked beginning in the early 1970s.

Since his death in 2012, his estate and foundation and a group of devoted local Sendakians have been working to make this town into what some day may be the primary pilgrimage site for his fans, the way Sante Fe, New Mexico, is for Georgia O'Keeffe or Amherst, Massachusetts, is for Emily Dickinson.

The urgency to create a place for the public to visit increased in 2014 when the artist's estate, citing Sendak's wishes, withdrew more than 10,000 pieces of artwork and other material from the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, to which Sendak lent pieces and which organised more than 70 exhibitions of his work.

In his will, Sendak - widely considered one of the most important children's authors of the 20th century and beloved for Where The Wild Things Are - wrote that he wanted his home here to operate "as a museum or similar facility, to be used by scholars, students, artists, illustrators and writers, and to be opened to the general public" as the Maurice Sendak Foundation's directors saw fit.

In recent interviews with the foundation's leadership and several Ridgefield Sendak supporters, it appears that it might be a long time before the general-public part of Sendak's desire comes to pass.

Two possible locations for a museum were rejected last month by the foundation because of concerns about practical problems.

Ms Lynn Caponera, the foundation's president, said the foundation was proceeding slowly and cautiously because it wants to ensure that the things Sendak left behind are properly maintained, documented and eventually seen.

"It's an enormous responsibility when you think about someone's legacy," said Ms Caponera, for whom Sendak was a beloved father figure. "It's awful enough when your parent dies, but when your parent's work is loved by millions and millions of people, you have to be conscious of that and think about what this means beyond you, because they're not our things. They belong to everyone who loved Maurice's work."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'Where the wild things aren't'. Print Edition | Subscribe