Reactions to the American Writers Museum
The estimated 17,500 American museums embrace the panoply of creative and artistic expression ─ save for the pantheon of America’s great writers. And though not as lengthy as the literary traditions of other cultures, American literature is as rich and enduring as any in the canon. America’s great writers deserve a museum equal to their contribution to the world’s cultural tapestry.
-Ford W. Bell, President, American Association of Museums
In St. Paul, the city that raised F. Scott Fitzgerald, and in Minnesota, that state that gave voice to writers from Sinclair Lewis and O. E. Rolvaag to Louise Erdrich and Tim O’Brien, we instinctively understand the need for an American Writers Museum. Our writers define us as Minnesotans and Americans, reminding us who we have been and helping us talk about who we are. We urge everyone to support the effort to keep these writers alive and in front of the public through an American Writers Museum.
-Christopher B. Coleman, Mayor, St. Paul, MN
How thrilling to imagine a museum dedicated to the great achievements of American literature. Such a museum—no matter where in the U.S. it was located— would immediately become both a national center and a national symbol for creativity, education, and the highest aspirations of our culture.
-Dana Gioia, Chairman (former), National Endowment for the Arts
What a fantastic concept—a museum devoted to great American writing, a museum dedicated to art that enriches and ennobles the human spirit. At a time when life moves so fast and so much of what we encounter is disposable, an institution that allows us to immerse ourselves in that which is permanent and meaningful, which allows us to embrace American writing and American stories at their best and most powerful, is an intrepid and necessary idea. I'm excited to visit!
-Dave Isay, Founder, StoryCorps
Books contain keystones. They speak through their words, their covers, their pages, and their history. The American Writers Museum will enshrine these objects and their gloriously individual creators. It will be a National Gallery of the mind; a meeting place of the American spirit; and an ongoing carnival of our capacious verbal heritage. As a lifelong reader and collector of American books, I look forward to the realization of this much-needed enterprise.
-Robert Jackson, Collector and Scholar
It is both surprising and unfortunate that relatively little attention has heretofore been given to the important role American writers have played in how we view our culture and ourselves. In every decade, from the time of the Revolution to the present, native writers have reflected the issues and concerns of the American people and have, in turn, influenced our thinking. American writers have produced some of the world’s great literature, essays and poetry, and it is time that their authors and their works be gathered and presented to the American people in a major cultural museum. The educational opportunities are endless, and I support the creation of the American Writers Museum with enthusiasm.
-Henry A. Kissinger, US Secretary of State (former)
The rich fabric of America’s literary history deserves a place like The American Writers Museum. Rooted in the private, individual pleasure of reading, there is a compelling excitement in learning more about America’s writers in the shared, public experience of a museum. It will be a place to meet one’s old friends—Twain, Dickinson, Frost—and make new acquaintances. What fun that will be.
-Richard Lariviere, President and CEO, The Field Museum of Natural History
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.
-Jim Leach, Chairman (former), National Endowment for the Humanities
For more than eighty years, Iowa City has been teaching the world to write. The Iowa Writers' Workshop at The University of lowa pioneered the teaching of creative writing at the university level. With its deeply elaborated literary cultural assets, Iowa City was designated the third City of Literature in the world and the only one in the United States by the United Nations Education Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) in 2008. There is a significant underlying principle here in Iowa: that the literary arts are for everyone at every age, in every walk of life. We believe an American Writers Museum would serve to keep alive our stories for generations to come.
-Sally Mason, President, University of Iowa
A national museum in Chicago exploring American writers and the power of their words would enormously enrich the city’s diverse museum landscape. Those of us whose main task it is to instill within the museum visitors an active and probing interest in nature and culture can only respond to the plans of a writers museum: This is the right thing to do!
-John McCarter Jr., Chairman, Board of Regents, Smithsonian Institution
The American Writers Museum is a grand, highly worthy idea. I’m all for it. Imagine all there will be to work with and what a center of inspiration it will be! The importance of our novelists, poets, dramatists, writers from every part of the country, every kind of background, has been part of the American story for more than 300 years. Think of what we owe them and how much we continue to learn from them!
-David McCullough, Author and Historian
The idea of an American Writers Museum seems to me long overdue. The literate world has known and prized American writers since the generation of Emerson and Thoreau. Whitman and Emily Dickinson have influenced poets and readers in English and in translation into many languages. The great current continues, and a museum honoring and portraying American writing would be an honor to the suffering and vision from which our literature came.
-W.S. Merwin, United States Poet Laureate (former)
I love the idea of the American Writers Museum. The American project has been fueled since the beginning by impassioned writing, and the Museum would be a wonderful place for that history to be embodied and rediscovered. And it's especially fitting that the Museum would be in Chicago, home to so many great American writers.
-George Saunders, Author
Establishing a national institution that will celebrate American writing is an inspired idea. The American Writers Museum will honor the achievements of more than 300 years of American writing. Through its programs, exhibitions, public readings, and film presentations, the museum will kindle a new appreciation of our literature and deepen our understanding of American writers.
-Thomas F. Staley, Director (former), Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin
What They Are Saying in Chicago
I enthusiastically support the efforts to place a national writers museum in Chicago. Such a museum will complement the rich offerings of the City’s theatres, museums, libraries and musical activities and adds significantly to Chicago’s vitality.
-Rahm Emanuel, Mayor, City of Chicago
I welcome the American Writers Museum to Illinois. I cannot think of a better location for the first national museum dedicated to American writers than here in the state that gave us Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury and Abraham Lincoln. Reading and writing are the building blocks of education and independent thinking. It is my hope that the museum will both educate the public and draw more tourists to our vibrant state.
-Pat Quinn, Governor, State of Illinois
Chicago is an ideal place for the American Writers Museum. The capital of our nation's heartland, Chicago can boast of authors like Mike Royko, Nelson Algren, Carl Sandburg and Saul Bellow who brought a frequently gruff, but always insightful and uniquely American style, to their work.
Moreover, Chicago has served as a fertile training ground for generations of authors, poets and journalists. Artists as varied as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., James T. Farrell, Studs Terkel and Gwendolyn Brooks, began their careers here and often drew on their experiences of our great metropolis for their most inspired work.
You have my enthusiastic support for the American Writers Museum.
-Alderman Edward M. Burke, Dean, Chicago City Council
I am very excited about the possibility of an American Writers Museum. If the concept becomes a reality, that most American of cities, Chicago, is an excellent place for the site . So many great writers have come from the American heartland where writers flourish and are respected.
-Henry S. Bienen, President Emeritus, Northwestern University
I believe and support this endeavor to have an American Writer Museum in Chicago; this venture will be a catalyst for other cities and nations to follow and will touch the lives of many.
-Alderman Walter Burnett Jr., City of Chicago
Here is a promise to create a museum in Chicago that will stimulate our young people to read, imagine, and write. Using interactive digital media, The American Writers Museum will bring to life the captivating stories of our great writers and explore their influence on our nation. Chicago, where eighty years ago the Four Illustrated American Books of the Lakeside Press helped shape the American book market of the last century, will now become the place for unleashing the power of the written word in the digital world.
-James R. Donnelley, Chairman (former), Chicago Public Library Foundation
Anyone invested in the cultural landscape of the United States would welcome an American Writers Museum--even those of us who believe that a picture might be worth a thousand words. Literature and the visual arts have been linked together since some of the first human efforts at creative expression, and they serve--with music, theater, dance, and other art forms--to celebrate the human spirit and as a source of inspiration for generations of artists to come. A museum devoted to American literature, specifically in Chicago, perhaps the most American of all cities, would play a vital role in keeping the creative impulse alive in the national psyche.
-Douglas Druick, President and Director, Art Institute of Chicago
A writers museum would not only celebrate the fabulous quality and diversity of the authors and writers in US history, but would also inspire the visitors, young and old alike regarding the importance of writing to our culture and our success as a country. Chicago is a wonderful choice to site such a museum. This ambitious project has my unqualified support.
-John W. Estey, Chairman, The Adler Planetarium
I welcome the efforts to place a national museum celebrating American writers and their work in Chicago. Other nations, such as China, Germany and Ireland, already honor their writers through a national museum. Inspiring exhibitions and educational programs pulling in young and old into the world of reading and writing would benefit our Chicago community and attract visitors from near and far enhancing Chicago’s national and international reputation.
-Tyrone C. Fahner, President, Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago
Our nation's libraries are dynamic cultural centers which make America's literary riches available to widely diverse audiences. A museum devoted to American authors is an exciting idea—one which we believe will be welcomed by librarians across the United States.
-Keith Michael Fiels, Executive Director, American Library Association
Mark Twain believed in Chicago and once quipped: “That astonishing Chicago – a city where they are always rubbing the lamp, and fetching up the genii, and contriving and achieving new impossibilities”. Chicago, home to a rich literary tradition of the greatest writers of our time including Carl Sandburg, Saul Bellow, Studs Terkel, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Nelson Algren, (not to mention my favorite poet, Lisel Mueller), is indeed an astonishing city that can and does achieve Mark Twain’s new impossibilities. I am most pleased to support the establishment of The American Writer’s Museum here in Chicago. DePaul University, America’s largest Catholic University, enthusiastically supports Chicago as the perfect setting for a national writers museum.
-Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, President, DePaul University
America needs a writers museum, and it ought to be located in Chicago. Books and writing are at the center of our national life and history: they have helped make us who we are. Chicago has been home to many great writers and today the city of broad shoulders is a city of great universities, libraries and museums -- as well as the geographic and cultural heart of the country. There could be no better or more appropriate place to recognize and celebrate our country’s greatest writers.
-Eden Martin, President (former), The Commercial Club of Chicago
I’m familiar with the ongoing plans for a Writer’s Museum, and think that it is a terrific notion. I’m attracted to the mix of grandeur and ephemera that inevitably animates museums devoted to writers – the way, for instance, the Writer’s Museum in Dublin offers at once a mini-history of the country and curiosities along the lines of Beckett’s telephone, an ingenious device that allowed him to eliminate incoming calls. Doesn't that tell you a lot about Beckett? Chicago would be the perfect setting for such a promising enterprise – centrally located, the crossroads of American culture, and possessing a deep and diverse literary history.
-Robert Polito, President, Poetry Foundation
I am excited about the prospect of the American Writer's Museum coming to Chicago. As Alderman of downtown Chicago's 42nd Ward, I am proud to support the American Writer's Museum's efforts to make Chicago its home. Bringing a literary museum to Chicago will celebrate the great achievements of American writers who have, through their works, helped shape our cultural identity. I believe the Writer's Museum will serve as a welcome addition, and great enhancement, to our already impressive portfolio of world-class cultural and educational institutions.
-Alderman Brendan Reilly, City of Chicago
Chicago is one of the world's great cities, and one with a remarkable literary heritage. From its beginning in the 19th century to the present day, Chicago has provided inspiration for renowned novelists, poets, journalists and essayists. Having The American Writers Museum here would be both appropriate and a wonderful addition to Chicago.
-Morton Schapiro, President, Northwestern University
I write to express my hearty and enthusiastic support for the American Writers Museum. The technological and economic revolution underway in the presentation and reception of the written word makes this an auspicious time for establishing an institution whose focus is on writers. A national museum, which would offer a chance to explore the richness and vitality of one of the world's great cultural resources – the heritage of great American writing – is a remarkable idea and long overdue.
-David Spadafora, President, The Newberry Library of Chicago
Chicago, my home and birthplace, nurtured many of America’s greatest writers of the past: Dreiser, Hemingway, Farrell, Sandburg, Algren, Bellow, Brooks and Terkel, to name a few. With so much of America’s literary heritage rooted here, it would be an ideal site for the American Writers Museum.
-Scott Turow, Author
I fully support the efforts to create The American Writers Museum in Chicago. As Secretary of State and State Librarian, I believe it is important to commemorate and highlight the noteworthy works of our nation’s great writers. It is my hope that this first of its kind museum will encourage young writers to connect with Illinois’ rich literary history. The museum would be a wonderful addition to our city and state.
-Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State
Our greatest writers contribute to the intellectual vitality of our country, and the American Writers Museum is an ambitious way in which to honor and recognize their contribution to scholarly inquiry and cultural expression. There is no better place for this museum than Chicago, home to a grand tradition of American writers, leading research universities, and a source of inspiration to many authors. I welcome the potential to create such a museum both as a resource for research and engagement, as well a symbol of literature’s lasting importance.
-Robert J. Zimmer, President, University of Chicago
What Others Have Said
This is an exciting and important project that all writers should support.
-Jean Carper, Author
The American Writers Museum project is a worthy one, something the nation needs and deserves.
-Shelby Coffey III, Editor (former), Los Angeles Times
Once considered a provincial offshoot of European culture, American literature genuinely came of age in the second half of the twentieth century. It demanded respect, and finally it got it. A museum devoted to American writers, free of patriotic puffery or fussy antiquarianism, could be an extraordinary tribute to the legion of eccentric talents that ultimately gave us such a dynamic and creative literary tradition.
-Morris Dickstein, Distinguished Professor of English, CUNY Graduate Center
The American Writers Museum will transform the solitary act of reading into a public forum, something we can experience with with our ears and our hands as well as our eyes. Why didn't anyone think of it before?
-Anne Fadiman, Writer-in-Residence, Yale University
I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of establishing The American Writers Museum. American writers have surely played as important a part in defining their nation as have those of Ireland, Scotland, and Mexico, all of which already have writers museums. The American Writers Museum promises to help all Americans comprehend and appreciate the importance of the written word to our uniquely varied culture.
-Timothy Ferris, Author
The American Writers Museum is a great idea whose time has come. Poets & Writers is pleased to endorse this ambitious, important project.
-Elliot Figman, Executive Director, Poets & Writers, Inc.
The train line goes from Mississippi to Chicago. The people bled out of the horror into the promise. Chicago was cold and mean but you could live. The music informed the history; the stories followed the music. Chicago is an incredibly important city because it kept the South alive--the good South of music and muse. This museum is great! Long overdue. To quote the blues song, "Going to Chicago--Glad that I can take you."
-Nikki Giovanni, Poet
Fabulous idea, tremendously powerful. The concept for the American Writer’s Museum is so timely. As publishing and bookstores struggle, a museum that celebrates the written word would be a powerful statement that we value the literary treasure trove we have inherited as Americans.
-Nancy Horan, Author
America was born of words. The American Writers Museum has the outstanding potential to lift literature from the page and provide a unique three-dimensional experience of the written word. At last we will have a museum celebrating our unique literary culture as the vital, vibrant, thrilling thing that it is.
-Jeffrey Lependorf, Executive Director, Council of Literary Magazines and Presses
Anything that brings more attention to the crucial role of literature in the American cultural debate is welcome, and the American Writers Museum is poised to do just that. This promises to be a museum that is permanently growing and changing, as all the best ones do. Come be a part of the flux.
-Rick Moody, Author
AWP strongly endorses the American Writers Museum project, which would greatly enhance the country's cultural landscape. America deserves a home for its diverse and unique contribution to world letters.
-Association of Writers and Writing Programs
The American Writers Museum promises to be a vibrant cultural institution dedicated to preserving American literature in an entirely contemporary manner. What a gift this innovative museum will be to writers, readers, and educators across the nation. PEN/Faulkner is pleased to endorse this exciting project.
A national museum, which would offer a chance to explore the richness and vitality of one of the world’s great cultural resources—the heritage of great American writing—is a remarkable idea and long overdue.
-Max Rudin, Publisher, The Library of America
As a firm believer in the effect of media on cultures, I fully endorse the creation of The American Writers Museum. Writers had the greatest influence on American thought from 1770 through 1930. The museum will remind us of the original sources that influenced our forefathers and continue to influence all of us.
-Reese Schonfeld, Founding President, CNN
Our lives are touched everyday by the great American authors. Our country must have a place of honor for all to see and remember how blessed we are with the wisdom and experience our authors bring to us.
-Jerre Stead, Executive Chairman, IHS
The United States is still a relatively young country, yet it has acquired in 234 years a literary legacy that can stand alongside that of much older cultures - and in poetry that legacy is certainly as wild and varied as the country itself. A museum that would provide context and illustrate our distinctly American qualities - from the wooly expansiveness of Whitman and fierce individuality of Dickinson, to today's most probing and groping literary inquiries - would be a gift to everyone who treasures words.
-Tree Swenson, President (former), Academy of American Poets
The American Writers Museum is a project eminently worthy of the support of everyone in the country who loves literature. The Center for Fiction is proud to be among its many supporters nationwide.
-Noreen Tomassi, Executive Director, The Center for Fiction
This exemplary project, to found a national museum devoted to celebrating the story of America through the tales and lives of its remarkable writers, is an idea that I suspect will prove as durable and as inspiring as Betsy Ross’s flag.
-Steve Wasserman, Editor at Large, Yale University Press