Writer’s Desk: The American Writers Museum

Sometime in about 2017, there is going to be a new museum on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue right around Lake Street: The American Writers Museum.

According to Publishers Weekly, the project—which sounds both awesome and awesomely quixotic—has been in the works since 2010. Since there won’t be much that a museum of this sort can resort to in terms of permanent holdings (Mark Twain’s pipe, perhaps? Rooms full of first editions?), it looks like they will be focusing on attention-grabbing experiential and interactive exhibits.

writersmuseum1That will mean including things like an interactive “word waterfall.” Which only makes sense, as they will need to bring in the punters in between their Magnificent Mile shopping jag and stroll through Millennium Park. But that will also apparently mean the prospect of interesting-sounding exhibits like the one asking”Are you a Bukowski or Vonnegut?

Hopefully they will include writing workshops and other educational functions as part of the museum’s mission.

Now that it’s happening, it’s curious why this kind of museum is only now being created. Earlier this year, Chicago artist Mia Funk raised this point in an interview with the museum’s president Malcolm O’Hagan (who was initially inspired by the Dublin Writers Museum) in Tin House:

It does seem absurd that America has so many museums devoted to fine art–an activity which really doesn’t touch a lot of people’s lives–but in a country composed of so many immigrants and children of immigrants, where stories have played such a part in remembering our pasts and unifying us, that it has taken us so long to honor our writers collectively.

Here’s hoping they do our writers proud.

Perhaps the most important question, though: What are they going to sell in the bookstore?

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