The American Writers Museum is the first of its kind and lucky for us, Chicago is the home of this historic beacon. Prior to the opening of the museum, writer’s homes served as mini museums throughout the country. However, the museum has partnered with 65 affiliate writer’s homes to bring this seven-year project to life.
Tasked with the difficult task of not recreating a library, the American Writers Museum does a fantastic job of mixing traditional with modern. Various digital and art installations greatly transform the space. Guests can either flip through the pages of a book or immerse themselves into a sensory experience. In addition to the highly interactive space, there is plenty of room to relax and lounge around with a great book in hand.
While not massive in size compared to larger museums, the American Writers Museum is filled to the brim with great content. Trust me when I say you can easily spend hours here.
The museum is a welcome addition to Chicago and anyone can find enjoyment within this magnificent space.
I’m already planning my second visit! Check out my favorite moments that you can find within the museum.
An Ode to ChicagoUpon first walking in, the museum has a hall dedicated to all things Chicago writers. Giant panels are lined up in a row and create a unique library of writer’s information. Guests can learn interesting facts from literary icons such as Lorraine Hansberry, Gwendolyn Brooks, & Roger Ebert. Within this space, guests can expect to learn about just almost anyone in Chicago history who’s writing had impacted literary culture. Expect to spend a good chunk of your time here.
Rotating ExhibitsStaying true to the museum experience, the American Writers Museum features a large rotating exhibit space. Periodically, guests can expect this space to reflect different writer’s works in an immersive environment. Currently, guests can experience the multi-sensory room which highlights the works of W.S. Merwin. When walking in, guests are overtaken by a green hue of many palms. The room features a controlled humidity that mimics the perfect temperatures of Hawaii. Merwin is an avid lover of palms and the space pays homage to that with over two dozen types included in the space. The space is so realistic, you have to remind yourself that you aren’t in an actual rainforest. Since the museum is all about writing, you can also read some handwritten poetry by Merwin while listening to his poems being read aloud on an overhead speaker
Word WaterfallWhen most think of writing we don’t think typically think of a high-tech experience; however, the museum seeks to disprove that with the word waterfall. The word waterfall is an intriguing art installation that shows a cascading waterfall of words. Using only light, iconic words and phrases are highlighted. Plus, if you are looking for a great picture, this is the place to do it. This is simply just beautiful and you have to experience its magnificence in person.
Wall of SurprisesWhen reading, you never know what surprises are in store on the next page. The museum recreates that experience with the Wall of Surprises. Tucked inside the wall are a plethora of sights, sounds, smells, and fun facts. It truly brings to life various moments of literary genius in this fun and interactive wall. John F. Kennedy’s iconic speech can be heard blasting through the speakers. Or guests can experience the harsh working conditions of Life in the Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis. I challenge you to spend a day finding the surprises hidden within the wall. You never know what you’ll find!
Peace & Tranquility
Many people prefer to dive into a book in a calm and soothing atmosphere. The museum caters to this by having a designated reading area. It’s simple but it features various quiet corners and cozy chairs making it the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a book. Plus, if you forgot your book at home, dive into one of the many classics scattered within the space.
Fun & GamesFor those seeking some fun and games, there’s an interactive gaming section within the museum. Participants can engage in a variety of activities such as creating your own dialect or by playing a round of mad-libs with friends. You can even learn about the habits of some of your favorite writers with a fun digital experience. Let’s just say, you absolutely cannot get bored in this exciting space.
Bonus Gem: Writer’s CornerIt wouldn’t be a writer’s museum without giving guests the space to write. Towards the back of the museum, there is a section dedicated to everyone’s favorite writing mechanism; the typewriter. Create your own story or add to an existing one by participating in the museum’s story of the day. The museum starts the daily story then guests submit their own sentence to complete it. Eventually, this story will have a digital component and guests will be able to see the attendee created stories online.
The American Writers Museum is definitely a must visit. There are so many wonderful things about this museum and I strongly encourage everyone to check it out. It truly redefines the museum and literary experience and all I can say is that you need to experience it for yourself to see what I mean.
Plus, check out their calendar of events to see some of the fun programming coming up. I’m definitely looking forward to the adult scroll writing class!
It’s another great addition to your Chicago bucket list.