Five years in the planning, the American Writers Museum has found a home in Chicago. The museum, which is set to open in early 2017, will be the first in the country to celebrate American writers and literature. As founder Malcolm O’Hagan announced during a press conference this morning, the museum's new home will be an 11,000-foot space at 180 North Michigan Street, near Millennium Park and the Chicago Art Institute.
The AWM is the brainchild of O’Hagan, a retired engineer who immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland. After founding the AWM Foundation in 2010 and selecting Chicago as the site for the museum in 2011, O’Hagan has set about raising funds. Working with him is the organization's now 22-member board, which includes retired Chicago bookseller Roberta Rubin and former Washington Post Book World editor-in-chief Marie Arana.
The AWM has, to date, received two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and two from the Chicago Community Trust. It has also raised $3.3 million from individual donors and family foundations. The goal is to raise a total of $10 million for the museum’s start-up costs.
AWM executive director Nike Whitcomb believes there will be a return on the investment. She told PW that AWM is projected to draw 120,000 visitors annually, and will net $1,750,000 in revenue by 2021.
The AWM’s mission statement is to “engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives.” In addition to interactive exhibits and programming, permanent digital exhibits will spotlight specific writers and their work. One of the museum's galleries will be dedicated to Chicago writers and literature, while an interactive "word waterfall" will allow visitors to create crowd-sourced stories.
The authors and works featured in the permanent exhibits will be chosen by a team Whitcomb described as “subject matter experts." Contributing to the decision will also be members of AWM’s National Advisory Council, which includes Bloomsbury Publishing’s editorial director Nancy Miller; Third World Press founding publisher, Haki R. Madhubuti; and Chicago author Scott Turow.
AWM also plans to partner with local independent bookstores on readings and other author events that will take place in a multipurpose space at the museum called Readers Hall.