The new American Writers Museum (AWM), at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lake Street in Chicago, is described by many as a “literary jewel box.” The museum is unique, not only because it is the first and only museum dedicated to American writers and their work but also because it’s lots of fun. The AWM is not a typical “don’t touch” museum; there are no artifacts under glass, and just a few books. Instead, the museum engages visitors with touch screens, word video games, sounds, sights, smells, and even vintage typewriters that visitors use to write their own stories and post them on the wall.
The AWM celebrates all genres of writing: songwriting, screenplays, nonfiction, memoir, advertising copy, sports writing, and much more. Any reader with fond memories of that one book that changed everything will love exploring the AWM. Yes, you’ll find Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Dickinson, but also a plethora of lesser-known writers who also played an important role in telling the American story.
AWM President Carey Cranston explains, “When you consider the word author is at the root authority, and look at the effect of the writers in the museum, it is clear that writing can be a powerful tool for change — both on a societal level and on a personal level.” The AWM’s programs for youth focus on this theme, and instill the sense of empowerment that comes through writing. The museum hosts middle and high school groups for museum visits, coupled with writing exercises that use the exhibits as inspiration. And, the AWM regularly hosts established and emerging writers who read from their new books and conduct discussions and workshops. With this array of offerings, the AWM celebrates the past, promotes the present, and inspires the future of American writing.
The Children’s Literature Gallery brings children’s classics to life, and encourages adults and children to read together. Although the museum is national in scope, the Chicago Gallery features the many great writers that make up our own city’s rich literary legacy. Two changing galleries allow the AWM to spotlight a specific author or theme. Currently, those galleries feature Capturing Stories: Photographs of Writers by Art Shay and Laura Ingalls Wilder: From Prairie to Page.
A trip to the American Writers Museum is a perfect part of a holiday trip downtown. The museum is open every day except Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. A small retail shop sells unique literary-themed items, as well as annual memberships — ideal holiday gifts for the reader on your list!
- Adults $12
- Students and Seniors: $8
- Children under 12: Free
American Writers Museum
180 N. Michigan Ave., second floor
Chicago, IL 60601