Commemorating the written word

By | Category: Travel news

Chawton: Jane Austen’s house

Today in Chicago the American Writers Museum opens to the public. Its purpose? In their words “The mission of the American Writers Museum is to engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives.”

Why the need for a museum of this nature? Again, to use their words, it is to educate the public about American writers, to explore the many exciting worlds created by the spoken and written word, to enrich and deepen appreciation for good writing in all its forms and finally it is inspire those that visit the museum to discover, or rediscover, a love of reading and writing.

Where is our equivalent?

Scotland has the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum but this is largely given over to just three writers; Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson. Where are the works of contemporary writers celebrated or those from the past who never achieved the prominence of the great trio?

Since 1991 there has been a Dublin Writers Museum that lauds the many Irish writers like Shaw, Swift, Wilde, Sheridan, Beckett and  Joyce as well as a special room for children. Speaking of children, there is Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle. Excellent as it is, it is just for children. Where are the equivalent centres for all writing?

The British Library in London’s Euston Road has cafes and free wifi. Plus the odd book and manuscript as well! But it is still no writers’ museum

There is the British Library which provides some excellent exhibitions and there are few place in the world where you can see Magna Carta, Islamic calligraphy and handwritten scores by Handel all together but it is a library rather than a celebration of writing. The same applies to our other copyright libraries.  There are plenty of houses linked to just one writer such as Abbotsford for Sir Walter Scott, Bateman’s for Rudyard Kipling and Jane  Austen’s house in  Chawton but these are as much about architecture and the houses rather than the writings.

Considering that we have one of the foremost literary gatherings in the world, the Hay Festival which begins in only nine days’ time and a heritage of writers going back 1,500 years (whose works are translated into dozens of languages and are known around the world) it seems an omission that no writers museum exists  as that opening in Chicago today.

 

 

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