1243_largePrecious relics of the life of Charlotte Brontë are taking center stage this year in a pair of special exhibitions celebrating the author’s bicentenary.

At the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, Charlotte Great and Small, curated by acclaimed novelist and Brontë enthusiast Tracy Chevalier, explores the contrast between Charlotte Brontë’s constricted life and her huge ambition. Growing up in the Haworth parsonage, Charlotte and her sisters lived in confined spaces, shared beds and worked together in one room. Despite being so contained, she had big ideas and longed to become “forever known”.

1183_largeExhibition highlights include Charlotte’s child-size clothes, several of the tiny books the Brontës wrote as children, and a scrap from a dress Charlotte wore to an important London dinner party. Another intriguing item on display is a moving love letter Charlotte wrote to her Belgian teacher, Constantin Heger, loaned by the British Library.

Additional objects from the Parsonage feature in the National Portrait Gallery’s Celebrating Charlotte Brontë, which transfers to New York’s Morgan Library this fall. The exhibition explores the story behind the only surviving portrait of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, painted by their brother Branwell. The painted was discovered folded on top of a wardrobe and subsequent acquired and restored by the Gallery in 1914.