American Writers New Museum Exhibit Design Opens June 22

Chicago’s American Writers Museum, a popular two-year-old attraction on the city’s famous Michigan Avenue, is prepping its June debut, “Tools of the Trade”, the Museum’s newest temporary exhibit design that displays writers’ tools, from inkwells to typewriters.

Central to the interactive exhibit are 17 typewriters – all on loan from private owners. Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 Underwood typewriter, Helen Keller’s 1946 Braille Writer, Truman Capote’s “modern” 1961 Smith-Corona Electra 110, and Maya Angelou’s 1980 Adler Meteor 12 are a few stars of the exhibit. 

Created by Amaze Design principal Andy Anway and fabricated by Chicago Scenic, “Tools of the Trade” features a modular collection of steel, wood and glass exhibit cases arranged in an easy-to-view horseshoe shape. According to Chicago Scenic’s Senior Project Manager Jim Mallerdino, the modular exhibit design was intentional to ensure flexibility in creating a variety of future exhibit configurations simply and economically.

From the very beginning of the Museum’s design process, the exhibit team – comprised of AWM’s internal staff, Boston’s Amaze Design, and fabricator Chicago Scenic, recognized the importance of continually presenting fresh material to audiences. To meet that need, the team designated a  232 sq.-foot temporary exhibit area adjacent to “Reader’s Hall” where exhibits rotate roughly every six months.

The exhibit team also knows that visitors stay – and return - if they’re engaged, making interactive exhibits a crucial component of the museum. AWM’s permanent exhibits feature a number of high touch and high-tech interactives, from the hypnotic digital “Word Waterfall” to “American Voices”, an 80-foot, multilayered interactive where visitors flip displays, view video screens and absorb brief capsules of information.

“Tools of the Trade” is on the low-end of high-tech but equally engaging. Devoted readers can consume brief but compelling graphic snapshots of writer’s routines, their personal lives, the characters they created, or the social conventions they challenged. The exhibit engages guest’s imaginations as they envision a favorite writer hard at work. 

Just beyond “Tools of the Trade” in the “Story of the Day” exhibit, exact replicas of some of the typewriters are displayed and visitors are encouraged to try them out as they compose a few sentences of their own great American novel. 

“Tools of the Trade” opens June 22 and continues through December.

American Writers New Museum Exhibit Design Opens June 22