First Museum Devoted To American Writers Will Call Michigan Avenue Home

By Emma G. Gallegos in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 27, 2015 4:13PM

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Here's a design of what the museum is expected to look like (American Writers Museum)

The American Writers Museum, an exciting project four years in the making, has found a home on Michigan Avenue. It will be an easy jaunt from other tourist attractions when it opens in 2017—just a few blocks north of the Art Institute and Millennium Park.

The museum has leased 11,500 square feet at 180 N. Michigan Ave., according to Crain's. It will be on the second-floor in a space that looks like this from the outside now:

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180 N. Michigan (Google Maps)

Malcolm O'Hagan, a retired engineer in Maryland and former docent at the Library of Congress, came up with the idea for the museum, which is modeled off the Dublin Writers Museum that has been around 25 years. There are dozens of American museums dedicated to individual writers but nothing dedicated to the entire national literary landscape: "The museum is committed to an open-ended project of including the panorama of American writing, and will embark on a long-term engagement with both the history and the future of American writing."

Chicago made sense as a location, because it is a great museum city but has cheaper real estate than any coastal cities. Nike Whitcomb, executive director and chief fundraiser for the museum, told Crain's, "Chicago is an extremely friendly museum city, home to some of the best museums in the world, making it a perfect location."

Crain's says the museum has raised $3.2 million of the $10 million is plans to raise by the end of 2016. The National Endowment for the Humanities, Chicago Community Trust and board members have got the ball rolling. $6.5 million will help build it out and operate it for a year. $3 million more will keep it going for another three years. Here's the rough outline of how the museum could be laid out (which were released before the Michigan Avenue location was announced):

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The museum could look like this (American Museum Overview)

There will be artifacts borrowed from other museums, but much of the museum will rely on digital technology to tell the stories of authors. There will be a room dedicated to Emily Dickinson that will allow people to feel like they're in the room where she composed poetry. There are even plans for a room dedicated to Chicago authors.

Here are a couple more images from the proposed design:

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Children's section (American Writers Museum)

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Another section (American Writers Museum)