Marianna Sorensen

2017’s Marvelous Museums: Writers, Revolutions, and Revamped Art

Marianna Sorensen

Who hasn’t been back to the same museums innumerable times? Museums are great sources of information, with not only incredible research behind everything they share, but also interactive and engaging methods of informing visitors. You can learn everything you want to know in a totally different way than reading about it. 2017 is going to welcome several new museums across the country—three of which I’m especially excited about.

The first is the American Writers Museum (AWM) in Chicago, which opened in May. Its aim is to celebrate the lives and works of American writers and their influence on history and culture. It has some awesome permanent exhibits. One is Writers Hall, which includes an interactive activity that lets you find authors who lived where you do. They also have the Word Waterfall, where projected words float down from the ceiling to floor, forming stanzas and paragraphs. Then there is the Mind of a Writer exhibit where AWM staff provide a prompt every day for visitors to contribute to each day’s story, and an exhibit called Word Play with an interactive tabletop that has games for visitors to experiment with words. Other areas of the museum will show artifacts on loan from historic writers’ homes to tell the behind-the-scenes stories of those writers.

In Philadelphia, the Museum of the American Revolution opened on April 19, purposefully chosen as it is the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The museum’s exhibits are organized by time span, the first of which is The Road to Independence, which involves a giant interactive map about various groups of people, a reproduction of the Boston Liberty Tree (under which the first ideas of the American Revolution were discussed) and original versions of the first state constitutions. The Darkest Hour exhibit has an object theater with weapons used in the war and a panoramic battlefield theater where visitors feel as if they are in the charge of the Battle of Brandywine. The museum also has a replica of a revolutionary-era ship that visitors can climb aboard, as well as a collection of artifacts from that era bearing symbols of the emerging republic.

The third museum of 2017 I’m excited about is the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (previously the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and now at a new location). It has no permanent collection, and will instead constantly show new exhibits made of loaned and donated works. It will open this fall with a café and space for public programs. Its goal is to support the community and make contemporary art accessible for everyone.

Each of these new museums sounds amazing—looks like I have some trips to start planning!

Did You Know?

The oldest museum in the United States is the Charleston Museum in South Carolina, which was founded in 1773, although it didn’t open to the public until 1824. The Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts is the country’s oldest continuously operating museum, which opened in 1799.

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