Meet the Museum Filling a Peculiar Void in the American Curatorial World

In a nation of 319 million people, there's something for every museum-goer out there. Do you like bananas? Then check out the International Banana Museum in Mecca, California. Got a thing for Pez? Lucky you. There's the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, also in the Golden State.

Are you a big fan of American authors? You should be all set, right? There should be countless museums celebrating the collective accomplishments of the country's greatest scribes, right? Well, not exactly.

There's a void in the American museum world. And that's not us talking. That's the opinion of the American Writers Museum. According to the museum's mission statement, while hobo aficionados can lose themselves in the Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa, our country lacks a definitive place where the public can celebrate American writers and explore their influence on our history, identity, culture, and daily lives.

Until the launch of the American Writers Museum, of course. Five years in the making, the Chicago-based museum is set to open in early 2017. And believe it or not, it's the "first in the country to celebrate American writers and literature." Through "innovative and dynamic state-of-the-art exhibitions, as well as compelling programming," the American Writers Museum will "educate, enrich, provoke, and inspire the public."

The museum, which is the brainchild of retired engineer Malcolm O'Hagan, is backed by two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, two from the Chicago Community Trust (recently profiled in IP here), and $3.3 million raised from individual donors and family foundations. (Check out the donors here.)

We imagine the fundraising pitch was only further strengthened by the strange fact that no such museum exists elsewhere in the U.S. Who wouldn't want to be part of executing a project like this? In a similar vein, O'Hagan and his team believe this unique value proposition will also resonate with the public at large. Executive Director Nike Whitcomb anticipates the museum will draw 120,000 visitors annually and generate $1,750,000 in revenue by 2021.

So we leave you with the question on everyone's minds. In a county with attractions like the Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum in McLean, Texas, why did it take so long to create a museum dedicated to the collective influence of American literary giants like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Maya Angelou, Norman Mailer, Rachel Carson, and Ralph Ellison?

The English major/armchair sociologist in us theorizes that the reason is related to our country's humble, no-frills, don't-call-attention-to-yourself Protestant heritage. If that's the case, it makes perfect sense why someone like Malcolm O'Hagan would conjure up the American Writer's Museum. He's an emigre from Ireland.