The first museum celebrating the collective achievements of the country's wordsmiths opens next week in Chicago.
The privately funded American Writers Museum—which is located on the second floor of a building along the city's busy North Michigan Avenue—has a "populist, D.I.Y. spirit," according to the New York Times's preview of the facility. Instead of stuffy libraries full of yellowing letters and dusty manuscripts, guests will find interactive exhibits and high-tech installations, including a "Word Waterfall," in which literary quotes emerge from a projection of seemingly random words, and a "Surprise Bookshelf" with quick takes on 100 memorable texts, from Tupac Shakur's "Dear Mama" to Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
An 85-foot timeline showcases 100 significant authors, literary critics weigh in via video commentaries, and touch-screen tables let you explore in depth aspects of works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora Neale Hurston, and about two dozen others.
To spark your own creativity, there's a dialogue generator, a grid that matches your habits to those of great writers (do you drink a distillery's worth of booze every day? Congrats—you're a Hemingway!), and other features.
What the place doesn't have is many original artifacts. Its most noteworthy display at the moment—the 120-foot scroll on which Jack Kerouac famously typed his manuscript of On the Road—is only on loan to the museum for the next six months.
There will, however, be temporary exhibits and other special events in the future, when more writerly relics might be put on view. Living writers will only be represented there, by the way. The permanent exhibition is for the dead alone.
The museum opens to the public on May 16.