In 1966, UNESCO declared Sept. 8 as International Literacy Day — a day celebrating worldwide achievements in literacy while also highlighting literacy as a human right.

At the American Writers Museum in downtown Chicago, visitors will be reminded of literacy’s significance in culture and their own daily lives — making it a top attraction to visit both physically and virtually while celebrating a powerful tool used to shape the course of human history.

“The American Writers Museum is a unique museum, being the first and only national museum designed to celebrate American writers and inspire people to write,” said Karie McGahan, director of marketing & events at the museum. “The museum topped Fodor’s list of the ‘World’s 10 Best New Museums’ and was voted ‘Best Illinois Attraction’ by the readers of USA Today.

While the museum is open to visitors, in-person group tours are temporarily suspended to promote social distancing. In addition to in-person experiences, the museum is offering a number of virtual programs. Groups can attend the museum’s virtual author talks streamed live on Zoom and there are museum-guided virtual field trips for K–12th grade levels.

“Our YouTube channel includes a virtual tour of the museum led by American Writers Museum President Carey Cranston and you can learn more about typewriters in our Tools of the Trade virtual tour,” McGahan said.

Credit: Courtesy of the American Writers Museum

Two new virtual exhibits have been added to the museum’s online collection that have activities and education resources for teachers, students, and parents to download. “My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today,”a virtual extension of the physical exhibit, features more than 30 authors who delve into questions about writing influences, being multilingual, community, family, and what it means to be American. “My America” gives visitors and students a deeply personal experience, bringing them face-to-face online through interactive, intimate video conversations with contemporary authors who are immigrants and refugees from all over the world. “Frederick Douglass: Agitator,”a virtual re-creation of the exhibit originally on display from June 2018 to June 2019, explores the later life of the author, orator and social justice activist. Scrolling through Douglass’s countless essays and speeches, visitors can see how his words remain all too relevant today.

If making an in-person trip to the museum, visitors will see and experience “more than 400 years of American writing history, vintage typewriters, a Word Waterfall, word games and a Surprise Bookshelf that includes sounds, smells, videos and dioramas,” McGahan said.

Coming to the museum in early 2021, the temporary exhibit “Inextinguishable”will explore the work and legacy of author Ray Bradbury. Visitors will be able to see Bradbury’s personal items, original manuscripts, the typewriter and the desk that he wrote many of his famous works on.

With countless exhibits and educational resources, the American Writers Museum not only features some of the nation’s most-beloved authors, but also reminds visitors that literacy is a gift to be cherished.

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