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Writer Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in that city explores his literary and cultural legacy.

The museum and library opened in a new location in Indianapolis in November 2019. That relocation happened because of the donations of 1,400 people who contributed $1.5 million to help the organization buy a building, said Julia Whitehead, founder and CEO.

Students encounter a “Freedom of Expression” exhibit that shows not only things related to Vonnegut but also includes a piece of the Berlin Wall, artwork by artists who use their voices for social change, and political leaders that Vonnegut liked such as Eugene V. Debs, who was jailed for speaking freely at a public event.

A replica of Vonnegut’s writing space in Barnstable, Massachusetts, is set up on the first floor.

The second floor features items related to Vonnegut’s time in Indiana and things related to his visits home as well as a “Happy Birthday, Wanda June” exhibit and an exhibit of Vonnegut’s art in the Frank and Katrina Basile Community Room. Vonnegut’s typewriter also is displayed on the second floor.

The third floor is devoted to Slaughterhouse-Five and includes that novel’s history and veterans’ creative work. Vonnegut’s Purple Heart and other artifacts are on exhibit.

“I think students like the guided tours because it shows how a local public-school kid just kept trying and followed his passion and became an international bestseller,” Whitehead said. “Students like the ‘hope’ of Vonnegut. The tiger in the Happy Birthday Wanda June exhibit is awesome. Students like typing on the replica typewriter in Kurt’s Study on the first floor. Most kids haven’t ever touched a real typewriter before.”

The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library conducts programs ranging from suicide prevention training and a new youth writing program with bestselling author Dave Eggers. There is also a teacher training program, veterans programs and programs in prisons.

Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indianapolis museum library
Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, Indianapolis, Ind.
Credit: Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

“I hope students learn why Vonnegut mattered,” Whitehead said. “I hope they learn why we are a venue that champions free speech and common decency so we feature things that are not just related to Kurt Vonnegut but they are things he cared about.

“Also, I hope they come away wanting to read one or more of his books,” she continued. “I hope students learn what he went through as a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany, under the Nazis, and though that experience was horrific, he kept going using humor and life goals. He lived a good life, despite the many tragedies he endured. He never gave up.”

For more information on the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library call 317-652-1954 or go to vonnegutlibrary.org.