Exploring the American Writers Museum in Chicago

W.S. Merwin Photo: Photograph by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel

The Chicago museum scene will expand next month with the welcome addition of the American Writers Museum, launching on May 16th. Not only will the museum seek to engage the public in celebrating American writers, but it will also explore their influence on the country’s history, identity, culture and experience.

Jim Leach, the former Chairman of National Endowment for the Humanities, delineates the museum’s mission:

“There is a void in the American museum world. 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. After all, what is written describes a people and what is celebrated defines their values.”

Like all museums, The American Writers Museum will feature both permanent and temporary displays. We have outlined some of our favorite exhibitions that will be debuted at the launch in May.

Photo Courtesy of AMW

The Mind of A Writer | Story of the Day – Permanent Exhibit

With this interactive space, museum-goers gather inspiration from the exhibitions and participate in the museum through the art of writing themselves. They can utilize paper and pencil, typewriters or digital media to post it on the museum’s story wall or add it to the online story of the day. The Story of the Day area of the museum enables guests to emulate the renowned authors exhibited by stimulating their own creativity in a playful, yet meaningful, manner.

The Stead Family Foundation Writers Hall – Permanent Exhibit

At the Writers Hall, visitors can use the kiosks to discover the American authors who have either lived or worked near them.

American Voices – Permanent Exhibit

Operating as a sixty-foot long multilayered display, American Voices traces the literary history of the United States, specifically focusing on the rise of one hundred emblematic and influential authors.


Photo Courtesy of AMW

The Negaunee Foundation Children’s Literature Gallery – Permanent Exhibit

The Children’s Literature Gallery features six displays that not only emphasize acclaimed American children’s book authors, but also offer a space for young-ones to read and interact. At the center of this gallery lies a grand mural by renowned children’s author Paul O. Zelinsky.

Palm: All Awake in the Darkness – Temporary Exhibit (May 16 – October 6, 2017)

Palm draws inspiration from the life and work of the American poet W.S. Merwin, and considers Merwin’s capability to summon a sense of the wakefulness of the world in his readers. As a visionary gardener and environmentalist, Merwin transformed a wasteland in Hawaii into an abundant and species-rich palm gardens by invoking a tree-by-tree planting process over numerous years. The American Writers Museum pays homage to this story through its immersive Palm installation.


Opening on the 16th May, The Americans Writers Museum in Chicago is a welcome addition to the already expansive museum network of the city. It will challenge people to contemplate literary works in a new manner, as well as expose and highlight the importance of the written word in the development of the United States as a nation.


Exploring the American Writers Museum in Chicago

180 N. Michigan Avenue, Second Floor Chicago, IL 60601

Opening: 16th of May 2017

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