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Opening Of American Writers Museum Celebrates The Written Word, Democracy

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel checks out an exhibit at the American Writers Museum.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel checks out an exhibit at the American Writers Museum.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

THE LOOP — Heralding the important role books have played in protecting American democracy, the newest Chicago museum celebrated turning the final page in a more than eight-year long effort to open its doors.

The American Writers Museum, dedicated to American authors, will open the public on Tuesday, the first institution dedicated to scribes across the country.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian David McCullough, who delivered the celebration's keynote address, said there was no better place for a museum dedicated to writers and the act of writing than Chicago — despite his love for his hometown of Pittsburgh.

"We are a good people and we do good work," McCullough said. "We are a nation of ideas, and a nation of immigrants. Take heart from that."

David McCullough delivers the celebration's keynote address. [DNAinfo/Heather Cherone]

The museum on the second floor at 180 N. Michigan Ave. is a "wonderful and original invention" housed in a "breathtaking" space, McCullough said.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — who spent 10 years teaching history — delivered an ode to the need for American Democracy to be fueled with the written word.

"At the core of our belief is the fact that words matter," Preckwinkle said.

Walking through the museum's main hallway, Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped at an exhibit featuring the words of The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., recalling how he and his family read from the civil rights icon's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail" during their celebration of Passover.

With officials expecting it to draw 120,000 visitors a year, Emanuel said the American Writers Museum would act as a "magnet" to bring the world to Chicago.

M. Hill Hammock, the co-chairman of the museum's board of directors, said the museum would serve as a "long overdue" place to honor Chicago's literary history while encouraging emerging writers.

Through Oct. 27, the museum will feature an exhibit honoring Beat author Jack Kerouac. Among other artifacts, the original manuscript of "On The Road" will be on display.

The museum will be led by Carey Cranston, of Beverly.

"Our goal is to be a national museum," Cranston said. "We are not focused on pieces. We are focused on stories."

Tickets will cost $12 for adults and $8 for children. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. For more information, call 312-374-8790 or go to americanwritersmuseum.org.

[DNAinfo/Heather Cherone]