Lonely Planet Writer

New in Travel: Chicago's American Writers Museum to shine a light on the written word


A new museum planned for spring 2017 aims to bring the rich cultural history of American writers into the spotlight.

The written word will be in the spotlight in the new museum.
The written word will be in the spotlight in the new museum. Image by silviomedeiros

The American Writers Museum will be based in Chicago and will be the first national museum to celebrate the influence of writers on the country’s history, culture and identity. As well as learning about the most important figures in the nation’s literary history, the museum hopes they will inspire visitors to rediscover or cultivate a deeper appreciation for reading and writing.

There are plans for special galleries which will display historic artefacts from the writers’ homes, giving a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look into their writing process. There will be a dedicated exhibit for the writers of Chicago, as well as a Children’s Gallery. In addition, there will be a chance for visitors to play word games and test their vocabulary.

Aside from their permanent collection, the museum says its huge variety of rotating exhibits will be the ‘lifeblood’ of the experience. Some possibilities for future exhibitions range from villains, beat poets, banned books and the Native American experience.

A colourful exhibit planned for the American Writers Museum.
A colourful exhibit planned for the American Writers Museum. Image by American Writers Museum

‘There is a void in the American museum world,’ said Jim Leach, former Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities. ‘We collect in central points the artifacts of civilization and honor politicians and soldiers, athletes and artists, inventors and entrepreneurs, but we neglect our writers. In a country established as an idea explicated in written documents and embellished by generations of poets, novelists, and critics, the case for commemorating the written word is self-evident.’

The museum is just the latest literary attraction to pop up in Chicago, joining Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace & Museum and the Newberry Library. Nestled in the city’s famous drinking culture are also a huge variety of book-themed bars for when you’re finished your sightseeing.