Since 2011 the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library has been keeping the flame of the famed author, war veteran, pacifist, free-speech advocate, critic, counter-culture icon and Indianapolis’ favorite son.
If you’ve never read any Kurt Vonnegut at all, this small library and museum is determined to show you why you should. Best known as the author of several short story collections and the satirical war novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut was an important chronicler of 20th century American culture, and always a true Hoosier. He was born in Indianapolis in 1922, to a well-known local architect and daughter of a wealthy brewer. His early years were ones of privilege, but the Depression hit the Vonnegut family hard. With money in short supply, people all but stopped hiring architects, and Prohibition put the nail in the family’s beer coffin. After Kurt finished high school he studied for a short time at Cornell, dropping out to join the army. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, was captured by the Germans, and survived the bombing of the city of Dresden. As a POW housed in an underground meat locker, his story of survival and war experiences became the basis for Slaughterhouse-Five.
The library/museum is housed in a downtown building called the Emelie, built in 1902 and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The staff are not only curators of Vonnegut’s work, but advocates of his ideals. In addition to their collection of his drawings, books, papers and letters (some of which are original publisher rejection letters), there is a recreation of the writer’s personal work space, a reading room, and a small art gallery. They see themselves as a unique cultural and educational resource, reaching into the hearts of readers, Hoosiers and beyond. Maybe that’s the best description of Vonnegut himself.
Know Before You Go
The Library/Museum is open every day except Wednesday. Their hours are 11am to 6pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday, and noon to 5pm on Saturday & Sunday.