Founded in 2009, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library (KVML) commemorates the life and work of the critically acclaimed author, who was born in Indianapolis in 1922. In 2011, the museum opened to the public at its first location in the Emelie building on Senate Avenue, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The Kurt Vonnegut Museum & Library opened on November 9, 2019. Credit: Jenna Auber View Source

The museum includes Vonnegut’s personal effects and life, a digital collection of Vonnegut’s papers, and personalized tours. To honor the author’s legacy, it features exhibits that highlight free speech and war and peace, issues that regularly appeared as themes in his writings and in which he was actively involved. The Vonnegut Museum has a traveling exhibit, which is contracted out to schools, museums, and libraries. It hosts workshops at schools and prisons, and it also serves as a venue for community dialogue and interaction.

Highlights of the museum collection include Vonnegut’s Purple Heart, awarded to him for his service in Dresden, Germany, during World War II; his Smith Corona typewriter, on which he composed his work; a series of rejection letters that he received from various magazines; and a replica of his writing studio.

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Kurt Vonnegut Jr., 1972 Credit: WNET-TV/ PBS, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons View Source

The organization publishes So It Goes: The Literary Journal Of The Kurt Vonnegut Museum And Library annually, featuring contributions from veterans and others. The journal takes its name from the phrase that Vonnegut used after every mention of death and mortality in his masterpiece war novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).

So It Goes is released during November’s VonnegutFest celebration, which includes programs on history and the arts. as well as a presentation of the Kurt Vonnegut Humor Award. The award is given annually to someone “with an offbeat, acerbic wit who possesses a keen eye for the absurdities of life—much in the vein of Vonnegut himself.” Actor Alec Baldwin (2014), television host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel (2015), and humorist Peter Sagal (2016) are among past recipients.

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The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library includes a replica of the author’s study, 2019 Credit: Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar, Indianapolis Star via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source

Each spring, a tribute that is known as “Night of Vonnegut” features notable speakers, such as comedian Lewis Black and British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, and presents scholarships to students attending Vonnegut’s alma mater SHORTRIDGE HIGH SCHOOL.

During the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week each September, the Vonnegut Museum hosts a volunteer who lives in the museum for a week surrounded by books that have been banned or censored as a protest against the censorship of the arts and humanities. Each evening, notable speakers discuss censorship issues and read from their favorite banned books.

In November 2019, the museum moved to a new location on Indiana Avenue. The new space includes a permanent exhibition dedicated to Slaughterhouse-Five, and in 2020 the institution gave away 86,000 copies of the novel to Indiana high school sophomores.

In September 2021 the Literary Landmarks Association named the museum a Literary Landmark. The designation, Indiana’s first-ever, puts the museum in company with sites associated with Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, and other noted authors. 

Revised March 2021
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