In 2017, the American Writers Museum opened in downtown Chicago. Located in a section of a high-rise building, its goal is to teach visitors about famous writers from the United States. I visited the museum in 2017, the same year that it first opened, so its exhibits may still be evolving.
Overall, the museum is well-done, but since it did not match the way I had envisioned it would be, I left somewhat disappointed. My main complaint against it is that it did not display many actual books. Instead, the exhibits were primarily colorful signs and screens providing information about American writers, but devoid of any tangible artifacts to enhance the experience.
The first exhibit has a wall display of 100 American writers who best represent the wide spectrum of genres in American literature. There is a biography about each author, as well as some interactive signs. This section only focuses on adult literature, whereas the children’s area has a section about children’s authors. Another exhibit in the museum allows visitors to try typing on a variety of different typewriters, which was fun.
The American Writers Museum is not large, so I honestly do not remember what else was in the permanent exhibits. However, I do remember the temporary exhibit that was there when I visited. It was the original manuscript of John Kerouac’s book, On the Road, which was temporarily loaned to them. I have not read Kerouac’s book, but appreciated that it looks like a scroll rather than like a traditional book. Since the temporary exhibits change regularly, the museum currently has a virtual exhibit called “Tools of the Trade,” which digitally displays different typewriters that belonged to famous people. It is a virtual exhibit because of COVID-19.
When you visit the museum, be on the lookout for awesome bookmarks. I am not sure if they still have them now, but when I was there, the museum had a variety of free bookmarks, each with a different picture of a famous American author. For example, I took a Harriet Beecher Stowe bookmark, which has a picture and quote of hers on the front, and pictures of her historic home in Connecticut on the back.
Since the American Writers Museum is located in downtown Chicago, you have to pay for parking or take public transportation there. However, if you go on the museum’s website, you can learn which parking garages provide a discounted parking price for museum visitors.
Sources and Further Reading
“The Beat Journey: Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road.’” American Writers Museum. https://americanwritersmuseum.org/exhibits/previous-exhibits/may-oct-2017-the-beat-journey-jack-kerouacs-on-the-road/ (accessed April 4, 2021).
“History & Mission.” American Writers Museum. https://americanwritersmuseum.org/about/history/ (accessed April 4, 2021).
“Parking and Directions.” American Writers Museum. https://americanwritersmuseum.org/visit/travel/ (accessed April 4, 2021).
“Tools of the Trade.” American Writers Museum. https://americanwritersmuseum.org/exhibits/temporary-exhibits/tools-of-the-trade/ (accessed April 4, 2021).