Chicago welcomes American Writers Museum

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Author David McCullough speaks with Mayor Rahm Emanuel after the opening ceremony of the American Writers Museum Monday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Chicago’s new American Writers Museum includes a timeline listing some of the country’s major literary moments — the first comic book, the first Pulitzer Prize, the rise of paperbacks.

The museum, which opens to the public Tuesday, also remembers that writers sometimes disrupt the status quo. Among the exhibits is one titled “Visionaries and troublemakers,” which portrays figures such as author/broadcaster/historian Studs Terkel, novelist Saul Bellow, journalist and activist Ida B. Wells and social worker, reformer and author Jane Addams.

Before helping to cut the ceremonial ribbon Monday morning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the latest addition to the city’s collection of 65 museums.

“It’s a milestone for [Chicago] as a cultural destination for the people of the city,” Emanuel said. “To have this rich [museum] built for generations and decades, and serve as a magnet to bring  people from around the globe when they come to this great city.”

Also in the museum is a children’s room; among other things, it features Dr. Seuss, “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, and the cartoon version of “Charlotte’s Web,” the classic spider-save-the-pig tale by E.B. White.

Books are mounted across the ceiling of the American Writers Museum, which officially opens Tuesday in Chicago. | Andrea Salcedo/For the Sun-Times

Books are mounted across the ceiling of the American Writers Museum, which officially opens Tuesday in Chicago. | Andrea Salcedo/For the Sun-Times

The museum, at 180 N. Michigan Ave., will officially open at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for children age 12 and younger.

Emanuel also read a special message from former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

“The American Writers Museum will help make sure that some of the world’s greatest writing remains alive and accessible for generations to come,” part of the letter reads.

American historian and author David McCullough, whose works include “Truman,” “John Adams” and “The Greater Journey,” told the crowd he discovered his love for writing biographies during one spring break at Yale while working on a biography about author and Chicago icon Richard Wright.

He had one simple advice for the audience.

“Read. Read. Read … That’s the best message,” McCullough said. “Don’t let anybody ever tell you, no matter how important they may think they are, that books don’t matter. Books do matter. Books need to be promoted and encouraged — and the younger [the reader], the better.”

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