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Banned, Censored, & Burned Books: There’s A Museum For That

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Gia R.

Staff Writer

Gia R. is from Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated with two business degrees. While studying, her short nonfiction story was published in 2018 in Write On, Downtown, an ASU journal. Since then, she taught preschool students abroad. Now back in AZ, you’ll find her writing, reading, and adoring digital art.

Ever wondered about banned books and why they’re banned? Well, you’re not alone.

From the classics to recent releases, there are many books that have been banned or censored by schools, libraries, and even countries for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons range from things like language and sexual innuendos to depictions of racism (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Hate U Give) and alternative values (The Handmaid’s Tale).

As the list of banned books grows longer, so does the list of reasons for banning them. There is truly so much to learn about which books have been banned and why.

It just so happens that a museum for this purpose has opened recently.

Introducing…Banned Books!

This new museum opened on December 5, 2020, and is located in Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia, a country nestled in between Latvia and Russia.

Address: Munga 5, 10140 Tallinn, Estonia

Hours: open Friday–Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

Note: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, double-check the facility’s hours prior to visiting.

What is Banned Books?

Banned Books is part museum, part bookstore for books that haven’t just been banned, but also ones that have been censored, restricted, or even burned. These books have been gathered and displayed in an effort to encourage a larger discussion around free speech. Banned Books is a place to access these books as well as a place to exchange ideas and engage with one another. This is made possible through the museum’s book club, podcast, and discussion groups. At Banned Books, the preservation of these books is just as important as education and access to them.

What inspired the creation of this museum?

According to the Banned Books website

“We started the museum because we want to preserve ideas, conversations, discussions, and thoughts. Books play a very important role in this. They represent a direct connection to the mind of the author, and the crystalized ideas they deemed worthy of sharing.”

Joseph Dunnigan, the spokesperson and leader of this initiative, said in a video on the museum’s Facebook page:

“We’re trying to make people think about the concept of free speech and about the free exchange of ideas. This is a place that you can come and learn about these kinds of things and you can contemplate these kinds of questions. I really feel very strongly that there should be a place in the world like, some small corner of the world, some tiny little place where these ideas can be preserved.” 

What books do they have inside?

Banned Books has a collection of over 100 books that are organized into various categories. The books that have been banned, censored, or burned are separated by country. They currently have books from Estonia, Russia, UK, China, and USA. They have other sections for children’s books, books about censorship, and books about books that were burned.

Some examples of the books on their shelves are Lord of the Flies, The Handmaid’s Tale, Unfree Speech, The Hate U Give, You Can’t Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom, and The Fake News Factory

If you’re curious about other books, check their social media pages for regular updates. Recently, they posted a picture of a new book by a Latvian author who will be featured on their podcast. And if you’re interested in their podcast or book club, check out their website.

Are you a bit far from Estonia? SAME.

Since it’s unsafe to travel right now, enjoy some reading from the comfort of your home. You can still get your hands on many banned books. For some recommendations, read Banned Books to Read During Banned Book Week.

If you want to know more about the topic of banned books and censorship, check out these other articles:

Beyond Magenta: When Gatekeeping Becomes Censorship

On the Visibility of Aids and HIV in Literature