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Onsite research for HEIST at the Gardner Museum. | Laura Pauling

Onsite research for HEIST at the Gardner Museum.

It was a hot, sticky day in August, when I walked through the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the summer of 2010. The cooler temperature of the building was a much-needed relief. My husband and I spent our anniversary in Boston, so I included this necessary stop all in the name of research.

At first, I was disappointed when I learned I couldn’t take inside pictures and I couldn’t use a pen to take notes. But, of course, I should’ve realized. The art in this museum is worth billions and they guard it carefully.

I asked about the 1990 heist, and they pulled out a photo album. The lady seemed a little annoyed as if they were tired of the fame of the heist instead of the art that remained on the walls.

I strolled through the museum, trying my best to follow the path of the thieves, soaking in the mystery. I sat on benches and recorded sights, smells, sounds, textures, tiled floors, the lavish decorations, grand ballrooms, and the flowering courtyard that sits in the center of the museum.

Then we toured the building. A thrill went through my chest at the sight of the empty frames, along with a little bit of sadness. What makes a heist so fascinating? Maybe it’s the fact that this was never solved (until recently) and due to Isabella’s will, nothing can be changed in the museum. Hopefully, the art will be found in the near future and returned to their rightful place. When it does, I’ll be sure to visit again.

I toured the grounds outside, walked down the narrow side street that coils around the building. When I found the small park, if it can be called that, next to the museum, the writer in me grew excited, because I could use that space for the art festival that Fiasco and Jetta visit.

Then I toured the public garden, walked the wide-paved paths, let my fingers trace across the heads of the ducks from the famous book, Make Way for the Ducklings. I found a bench in the shade, pulled out my notebooks, and took notes on the sights, sounds, and smells.

I arrived home, armed with details to add to my story.

Walk in the paths of my fictional hero as he solves this famous art heist.

 Add to Goodreads and be ready for the release next week! Eek!

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10 Responses to Onsite research for HEIST at the Gardner Museum.

  1. Natalie Aguirre August 5, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Sounds like an awesome trip and that’s great you were able to tour the museum and really spend lots of time there.

    • Laura August 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

      I didn’t even know the museum existed when I was researching famous art heists. When I realized one was close to me – the decision was made! It was a lot of fun learning about and reading about it.

  2. Joyce Johnson August 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    Seems as though this trip was worthwhile. Looking forward to reading HEIST!

  3. Alex J. Cavanaugh August 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    Bet you were able to add a lot of realism to your story that way. One more week – get excited!

    • Laura August 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      It was extremely helpful with the details to have walked through the museum. There are pictures out there so I could have made do, but I’m very glad I had the chance. And yes – I’m excited!

  4. Dianne Salerni August 5, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    On site research is so thrilling! A lot can be done with the internet, of course, and sometimes it’s tempting to make do with that.

    For a time, I considered telling my husband that the YouTube videos people took of themselves climbing the Pyramid of the Sun was sufficient for me to write my book. But then I realized he was offering to take me to Mexico — and I slapped some sense into myself — and threw myself at his feet in gratitude. (He liked that!)

    It must have been thrilling to visit the scene of the crime — even if the museum curators are annoyed. (I guess you can’t blame them when they are made famous for a colossal FAIL, huh?)

  5. Marcia August 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    Oh, I love on-site research. I can even feel how cool (temp-wise) it would have been to walk into the building and out of the sun. No photos wouldn’t surprise me, but no pen to take notes? Were they disallowing ink per se, or note-taking, period?

  6. Karen Strong August 7, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    I love doing research by actually going to real places. I’m like Marcia, I wonder why no note-taking? Maybe because notes could help “case out” the place?

    I actually thought about you about the latest jewelry heist from the Pink Panther gang. They say in all, they stolen about a half BILLION dollars in jewels. Crazy.

  7. Margo Berendsen August 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    You weren’t allowed to take a pen in ??? I would have gone nuts because if I don’t take notes right away I never remember anything. Would they have allowed a digital recorder for notetaking?

    I love those famous ducklings! Reminds me I need to get that book for my girls.

  8. Julie Musil August 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Oh wow, a real heist! That’s fascinating. I always wonder how the crooks pull that stuff off.

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