Literary Tourism

Literary Tourism: American Author Museums

Cassandra Neace

Staff Writer

Cassandra Neace is a high school English teacher in Houston. When she's not in the classroom, she reads books and writes about them. She prides herself on her ability to recommend a book for most any occasion. She can be found on Instagram @read_write_make

Last month, it was announced that Springfield, Massachusetts, will soon be home to a museum to honor the legacy of Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Theodor Seuss Giesel). The news of an author museum, especially one that is sure to be super fun and interesting, made me wonder about the other awesome museums out there that celebrate books and their authors.

My search led me to the website for the American Writers Museum, a work in progress that will be opening in Chicago in 2016. The facility may not yet be open to the public, but they’ve put a great deal of effort into the creation of a website that catalogs the locations of author museums, book festivals, literary archives, and final resting spots. Planning a literary road trip? This is the place to start.

Here are a few can’t miss destinations:

Herman Melville’s Arrowhead – Pittsfield, MA

I’ve never read Moby Dick, but after being inundated with references to the white whale, I have developed a fascination for the mythology and the man behind it. Arrowhead is the farm that Melville and his family called home, and it operates today in much the same way that it did when he lived there. There are some additions, of course, that pay homage to the his greatest work.

There are tours of the house and grounds available, and they’ve mapped out something called the Melville trail, which takes visitors to some of the author’s favorite spots in the Berkshires.

The Margaret Mitchell House – Atlanta, GA

I’ll admit it. It’s another book I haven’t read (and movie I haven’t seen), but I’m fascinated with the story surrounding Margaret Mitchell and her magnum opus.  It all started when I read the chapter in The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood about going to Atlanta for the premiere. I blame Rebecca Wells.

Visitors to the museum can visit the apartment where Mitchell wrote the novel and learn about the life she lead. They also have the opportunity to learn about journey from page to screen and that films 1939 premier, known as the night the stars fell on Atlanta. There’s a lot of interesting programming, too. They sponsor a lecture series, participate in the Poetry Out Loud program, and offer a summer camp for young writers.

Pearl S. Buck International – Perkasie, PA

It should come as no surprise that the Pearl S. Buck house is more than just a museum. It houses an organization dedicated to the exploration and appreciation of other cultures. One of the ways that PSBI accomplishes this goal is through the preservation of the home in which she wrote novels like The Good Earth. Visitors to the site will learn about her writing, catch a glimpse of both her Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, and see souvenirs from her travels. They will also learn about the humanitarian efforts of the author, a legacy that is honored by PSBI and its mission.

The PBSI also sponsors a writing center, with a variety of workshops, conferences, and book clubs.

I’m looking forward to the opening of the American Writer’s Museum next year. The design plans look pretty amazing.

Have you visited any notable author museums or literary landmarks on the road? We’d love to hear your recommendations!