8 Must-Visit Author Memorials and Museums


We found out last week that the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library will open this fall in the author’s native Indianapolis. Vonnegut suffered several brain injuries that ultimately led to his death on April 11, 2007. It is fitting that his memorial be a library, as the AP article points out, because he so loved to be surrounded by books. His three children were quick to approve the plans and help celebrate their father’s immense body of work.

Among the library’s artifacts are Vonnegut’s Purple Heart, a replica of his writing space (complete with typewriter), and a set of rejection letters that are bound to embarrass their writers to death. There’s a dearth of author dedicated libraries and museums, so here are eight others collected for your enjoyment. Missed your hometown hero or favorite writer? Add your tips to the comments.

The Beat Museum was originally located in Monterey, CA, but later relocated to San Francisco. It was here that the likes of Jack Kerouac, Williams S. Burroughs, and Alan Ginsberg found their callings. They celebrated the freedom and spontaneity that the post-World War II abundance years allowed by taking liberties with the structure, material and language that was “acceptable.” This museum is mostly gift shop, but they also have a charming array of cultural ephemera that stray beatniks will certainly enjoy.

Not all memorials become gift shops — The Walt Whitman Library is your average arm of the Brooklyn Public library. The community decided to celebrate the life of the Brooklyn-native Whitman by naming a quaint branch after the poet on what would have been his 125th birthday. If only he’d made it! Still, we think he’d be proud to know that the library provides reading resources for children, parents, and teachers looking to ignite the spark of language in themselves or others.

You’ll be glad to know that Emily Dickinson’s house did not actually burn down, but is standing in Amherst, MA, under the watch of Amherst College. The poet was born and lived most of her life here. Though the museum doesn’t hold much of her original writings (wisely stored away in basements of temperature-controlled basements) they host an array of events celebrating the spirit and work of this great writer.

Quite often an author’s Alma mater will assume responsibility for remembering their work. Such is the case with the Langston Hughes Library at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. After dropping out of Columbia under racial pressure that forced him into the neighborhood he would come to love, Hughes enrolled at Lincoln, graduating in 1929 (a year ahead of classmate Thurgood Marshall). The writer’s work is remembered as an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance, but vibrates far beyond the ’20s and ’30s, still speaking of the jazz age today.

Owned by the town it occupies (Franconia, New Hampshire), The Frost House is on the summer home of the Frost family. Predictably, poet Robert used New England as an escape from the buzz of everyday life. The present-day managers of the museum offer a great annual opportunity to an emerging American poet by providing a cash prize and the use of the house for several months as a living and work space. How better to honor this writer’s tradition?

F. Scott Fitzgerald, who floated in and out of St. Paul, Minnesota throughout his life, used his Midwestern roots as an inspirational starting point, a place from which to set out into the world. Appropriately, this is the Fitzgerald reading alcove. It’s a simple and beautiful section of the St. Paul Public Library not cluttered by tchotchkes and left-over scraps of paper. We think this Lost Generation writer would be proud.

Appropriately Californian estate remains Henry Miller’s lasting impression on the artistic community. This Big Sur cabana is not only the writer’s former home, but it currently functions as both museum to miller and a concert/performance space. It’s none too surprising — Miller’s artistic talent was multifaceted, so too should his museum be.

Mark Twain’s writing ability let him blend in wherever he went — not that he ever wanted to, but he could have. Though born in Florida, Missouri (near a lake now named after him), Samuel Clemens spent his last days in this beautiful Redding, CT home. The house now has an associated museum that, among other things, proves how dedicated other writers are to Twain’s legacy — Tom Wolfe and David Baldacci are two contributors among many to have written down and donated what the famed author’s work meant to them. We trust the Vonnegut library will be similarly successful.