During my recent trip to Chicago, I checked out the new American Writers Museum.
I highly recommend this experience to all fans and beneficiaries of American literature (and if you are reading my blog I’m assuming you are both of these!!). I found it interesting, inspiring, and even emotional.
This museum just opened in May, and I think the word is still getting out about it. I am excited to tell you more!
The American Writers Museum is located on the second floor of 180 N. Michigan Ave in Chicago. This is a block away from Millennium Park. The cost is $12 for adults. Students and seniors are $8. It is free for kids 12 and under. They are closed on Mondays and open 10-4 other days except on Thursdays they are open until 8 p.m.
You will need about 2 hours to visit. If you have the time and really want to do it justice you may want to allow 2.5 – 3 hours. We stayed about an hour and a half, and I could have easily lingered longer but I wasn’t at the top of my mindfulness due to a late concert the night before and also having my husband with me who was not as interested as me. He was a good sport, but it would be a nice place to visit alone too!
The experience starts with a video (huge screen) with a map of America that shows the migration of American writers throughout our country’s history. I remember feeling emotional during this.
Then you move into a long, wide room. One side showcases dozens of writers in chronological order with boxes that flip with more information about them. This is more interesting than it sounds! The other side also has boxes that name a work of art (not just books but speeches, comedy routines etc.) that you can flip and have a multi-media experience. For example, I remember one about Moby Dick where you flipped it to see a video of the sea with a passage from this book about the sea read aloud. The only bad part about this room is that I didn’t know exactly the best way to approach it; I kept going back and forth between the two sides as I moved towards the other end. But this is good because it just means there is a lot you’ll want to see.
At the end of this room is the “word waterfall” which is another huge-screen video experience but this is indescribable; you will have to see for yourself.
The next area has books and an interactive experience where you pick your favorite 5 American books and see where yours rank with others. A TIP: Think about this before because you visit. I had trouble doing it quickly because you have to search by author name yourself. And just a few minutes after completing the activity I was reminded of an author who would have made my list with more time to think.
There were two special exhibits when I visited. One is an enclosed area called “Palm” inspired by the works of W.S. Mervin with plants and poetry (on the walls and read aloud over speakers). The other special exhibit focused on On the Road and included Jack Keroac’s scroll from writing this book. He taped pages together so he didn’t have to stop to load his typewriter. This is on loan to the museum. I loved this exhibit; of all the books in my library, this is the one I have marked/underlined/page marked the most!
The next area includes interactive screens about writing, vocabulary, and word games. You could spend as little or as much time in many interactive areas as you want. This experience can also be useful for an aspiring writer.
Finally, there is a room of banners with Chicago writers. I especially loved seeing Mike Ryoko and Studs Turkel represented here.
Then you end up back where you started where there is a small gift shop and FREE bookmarks that honor each of the authors honored in the first room.
There is also a children’s’ room I did not spend any time in there because my kids were not with me.
Needless to say again after writing all of this; I highly recommend this attraction. It’s not like anything I’ve seen before. Know though that it is a smaller museum. My husband thought it was not really a “museum” but rather a tribute. Super fans of literature may make a special trip to see it but for most people it is more likely an add-on to an existing visit to Chicago. If you live in the area they have several scheduled events and lectures that look interesting.
Just writing this makes me want to visit it again and spend more time there!!
Let me know if you have any questions I’m happy to answer them. Their website is AmericanWritersMuseum.org.