As a blogger for the new American Writers Museum, I was invited to a very special preview day.
It was grand! The museum officially opens in Chicago on May 16, at 180 N. Michigan Avenue. The American Writers Museum (AWM) is the first and only museum in the United States dedicated to celebrating American writers and “exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives.”
The museum is interactive and immersive.
Visitors see what makes American literature different from all other world literatures, get to know authors, gain new perspectives on familiar authors and learn about writers of all genres from advertising copywriters like Russ Alben who wrote the famed Timex watch slogan, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” to songwriters like Woody Guthrie. All forms of writing are honored.
The Kerouac Scroll is a visiting exhibit and a fascinating must-see.
In 1951, Jack Kerouac wanted to write in a continuous stream on his typewriter (He would have loved a computer.), so he created a scroll from several rolls of tracing paper. He taped the ends of the paper together to make a giant roll, which he then trimmed to fit into his typewriter. With the scroll loaded into the typewriter, Kerouac spent three weeks straight typing an early version of On the Road, “letting the subconscious express itself in its own way.” He said, “I let the words flow out in uninterrupted waves, half awake, hardly knowing what I was doing except that I was writing.”
Malcolm O’Hagan is the passionate, driven founder of the AWM.
O’Hagan, born (the day before St. Patrick’s Day) and raised in Ireland, recognized that Ireland had a national museum dedicated to writers, but, alas, the United States did not. He set out to change that seven years ago, and today his vision has come to fruition.
This summer, consider taking a trip to Chicago and visiting the American Writers Museum. It’s a place for families, writers, readers, music lovers, advertising aficionados, and lovers of engaging, fun museums. The goal is to one day build a stand-alone museum.
There’s a quote from Flannery O’Connor printed on a bookmark at the AWM.
O’Connor said, “The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”
The American Writers Museum has found the perfect location—Chicago was chosen because it is the crossroad of our country. Time, place, and eternity have met there in a perfect salute to writers.