The American Writers’ Museum – Chicago, Illinois

At the recent American Library Association conference, one highlighted “outside” event included a trip to the newly operational American Writers’ Museum, the first and only museum in the country honoring the collective body of American authors and their literature!!  This museum operates in collaboration with the major home sites of authors from across the country, from Irving’s Sunnyside to Hemingway’s Old Town Key West abode.

Zelinsky’s squirrel reading “Make Way for Ducklings.”

The museum tour begins from the foundation up.  Rounding the first corner, the visitor encounters a mural from Paul Zelinsky depicting forty-two squirrels reading thirty-four books, representing significant milestones in American children’s literature.  Featured books include:  Little Women, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, A Snowy Day, Make Way for Ducklings, Perez y Martina, The World Is Round, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Cat in the Hat, and Good Night, Moon.


Entering the “adult” area, we see many young adult authors featured as well.  For example, on the digital map of America entitled “A Nation of Authors,” which scrolls pictures and landscapes pertinent to our nation’s collective body of literature, Jack London is featured.

Jack London
Jack London on the digital display “A Nation of Writers”

An interactive journey then begins in which visitors may manually turn tri-shaped blocks depicting the life and works of prominent authors.  Again, major children’s authors are featured – Washington Irving, Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, E.B. White – as well as many young adult American authors – James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville.  Below these blocks, hands-on three-ring counters allow those on-site (hopefully, young hands, too) to consider how art begets art.  For example, Irving’s works have been converted to “classic comics” over the years.

One quote by Herman Melville flashes prominently within the museum:  “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.”  One could say the same holds true for museums, American Writers proving a “mighty” theme, indeed!   The NCBLA hopes you can visit this fine addition to our library/museum/archive (LMA) infrastructure, soon!!