The American Writers Museum

I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday – and subsequently bombarded Twitter with Instagram photographs of the wonders within.

It houses an intellectual array of artifacts stretching from Ancient Egyptian mummies, to Modern Art masterpieces, to a Contemporary work known as “Cloud City”, sans Lando Calrissian. Any visit to New York City is folly without stepping foot inside its halls.

This – as well as Hannah Karena Jones’ piece on authors’ writing desks – got me thinking: Why isn’t there a museum dedicated to writers?

There are museums and landmarks dedicated to a single author, most usually in their birthplace city or adopted hometown, but there does not exist a centralized, collective hub of the American writer.

It seems strange – America has museums for actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, wars, artists, and scientists – yet nothing to commemorate those who helped shape this country with ink and paper. Nothing for those who enlivened our imaginations and hearts with fantastical tales, tear-jerking drama, worry-free comedy, goosebump horror, and thought-provoking essays; nothing for those who shaped generations and cultures with the stroke of their pen.

And, more often than not, the history of America is best framed by those who captured its soul in written pages.

I am not alone in my thoughts, and there is a push to construct an American Writers Museum; its 30-page Concept Plan outlines a terrific view of what it could look like. The website offers anyone the ability to share their ideas of what should be included in the museum (an inkwell fountain? yes, please), as well as the ability to become involved and donate toward the museum.

Progress has been slow – this is still America, after all – but it is a project that is worth keeping abreast of, especially if you are a writer or reader on any level. I highly suggest/threaten that you keep this gem in the back of your mind – or do me one better and spread the word.

As Jim Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, put it:

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.

One day it may be you who is inducted into the American Writers Museum; but, until that time, we should do everything within our power to ensure that those who have left their indelible ink on the pages of our hearts have a place to call home.

Our writers deserve it.

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8 thoughts on “The American Writers Museum

  1. hannahkarena

    Did you go to the Cloisters too? It’s part of the Met, but it’s a train ride away. A whole bunch of medieval buildings were basically shipped over from France, Spain, etc. and reconstructed, brick by brick, in the middle of the city. Awesome. The ticket gets you in both places, so I always go.

    1. G.P. Merwede Post author

      I haven’t been to the Cloisters, but it’s on my list – right next to the Museum of Natural History. I totally nerded-out when I was standing in the Temple of Dendur. It’s intense to think that you are standing where Ancient Egyptians did some thousands of years ago.

      And I geek even more with medieval history. I’m certain i’ll abuse Instagram with that as well.

      1. hannahkarena

        When I went to Egypt–God, was that two summers ago?–I had that experience the whole entire time. It is crazy intense to be looking at the pyramids, touching the hieroglyphics, and (maybe) picking up little chunks of pyramid rock to take home. (I did not do this. Other people did though. I saw them. Yes.) It’s a little overwhelming to be surrounded by that much history, and to have to think back on how old each and every thing you see is.

      2. G.P. Merwede Post author

        I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Fog, or any other number of stories, where those long-since dead return for that which was taken from them; those five-finger discount thieves better watch their back! It’s mindboggling when you come to the realization of what you are looking at/touching/standing upon. I am a bit jealous of those archeologists who discovered such hidden treasures – if that profession was a bit more Indiana Jones-y I would have purchased a whip and fedora some time ago.

  2. Kat

    I love the idea of a museum for American writers! I never gave it a thought, but you’re right…there isn’t really anything like that to honor the writers who’ve shaped our world. The Met is one of my favorite museums to visit…it’s been too long…I must get back! Since I’m an artist, I love spending time with the Renaissance masters, reveling in their brush strokes to the point I want to fondle each and every painting (the nasty look from the guard usually stops me).

    1. G.P. Merwede Post author

      It’s rather confusing that we don’t have a museum for writers; although, the introverted, self-satisfying profession of writing doesn’t well lend itself to mobs marching on main streets demanding a monument for their favorite author.

  3. Pingback: The Need for an American Writer’s Museum « Kat Collins

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