Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

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Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
VonnegutMemorialLibrary Exterior.jpg
Exterior of building
Type Library
Location Indianapolis, Indiana
Coordinates 39°46′22″N 86°09′48″W / 39.772658°N 86.163471°W / 39.772658; -86.163471Coordinates: 39°46′22″N 86°09′48″W / 39.772658°N 86.163471°W / 39.772658; -86.163471
Other information
Director Julia Whitehead. Executive Director and Library Founder
Website link

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is dedicated to championing the literary, artistic and cultural contributions of the late writer, artist and Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.. It opened in January 2011 and is located in the Emelie Building, a structure on the National Register of Historical Places at 340 N. Senate Avenue in Indianapolis, Indiana. The library serves as a cultural and educational resource facility, museum, art gallery and reading room. It supports language and visual arts education through programs and outreach activities with other local arts organizations to foster a strong arts network for both the local and national community.

One of the goals for the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is to help tourism to Indianapolis. Tourism officials from the city look at the library as a new attraction and reason for people to visit. The library is one of several efforts supported by the city and institutions such as the Lilly Endowment and Ball State University to expand the city’s cultural activities, alongside the Indianapolis Museum of Art and The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.[1] The Lilly Endowment Inc. granted the library a $50,000 grant and the funds will be used, in part, to provide for a citywide festival planned for 2013.

Ball State University along with partner contributors granted the library $76,710 to digitize rare archival material and make the content more accessible to the general public via a digital display.[2] The work involved with opening the museum was made possible by volunteers.


The Emelie
The Emelie, Indianapolis.jpg
Front view of the Emelie
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is located in Indiana
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
Location 326–330 N. Senate Ave. and 301–303 W. Vermont St., Indianapolis, Indiana
Coordinates 39°46′21″N 86°9′48″W / 39.77250°N 86.16333°W / 39.77250; -86.16333
Area less than one acre
Built 1902
Governing body Private
MPS Apartments and Flats of Downtown Indianapolis TR
NRHP Reference # 83000068[3]
Added to NRHP September 15, 1983

Highlighted attractions of the library include a museum, art gallery and reading room. The museum features rare remnants from Vonnegut’s life, including the author’s Purple Heart medal awarded to him for his service in Dresden, Germany during World War II, the author’s Smith-Corona Coronamatic 2200 typewriter, an unopened box of the author’s Pall Mall cigarettes discovered by his children behind a bookcase following his death, an unopened letter sent overseas (in the course of World War II) to the author from his father, a series of rejection letters sent to the author by magazines, and a complete replica of his writing studio.[4] The library’s art gallery displays art by local artists and participates in events in cooperation with the Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association such as the monthly “First Friday Gallery Tours.” A small reading room with a selection of books by Vonnegut sits in the corner of the library.[4] On the wall of the reading room is a quote by the author: “We are what we pretend to be so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

Public service[edit]

The library functions as an educational resource to schools ranging from grade school to high school levels. Several Indiana elementary schools have ceased to provide time and funding for spelling bees, so the library has intervened with many schools to provide the necessary resources to continue the activity. Resources for high schools include support for the Shortridge High School newspaper, the same newspaper Vonnegut edited as a teenager. Teachers can also look to the library for continuing education through the “Teaching Teachers to Teach Vonnegut” program, a program designed to assist educators in learning key methods of teaching Vonnegut’s works to teenagers. The library holds an annual writing contest for high school students and winners receive scholarships such as the Kurt Vonnegut Writing Award and the Jane Cox Vonnegut Writing Award. Resources are also available to local professional and amateur writers including a variety of writing events and discussions. The library sponsors a literary magazine, "So It Goes," which debuted in December 2012.

The library is an active opponent of banning books. When the Republic High School in Missouri banned Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse Five, the library offered students of the high school a free copy of the novel so they could read it themselves and draw their own conclusions. In regard to the book giveaway, a library representative stated: “We have up to 150 books to share thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor … We’re not telling you to like the book … we just want you to read it and decide for yourself.”[5]

The library includes military veterans in its programming, with an annual event titled "Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day;" exhibitions of veterans' artwork, performance art and writings; writing workshops; and opportunities for veterans to learn to use the arts and humanities as a way to communicate. Vonnegut himself was a veteran of World War II.

The Emelie Building[edit]

Built in 1902 by German immigrant Frederick Schmid and named for his wife,[6] the Emelie building was saved and restored by Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects to serve as the company's corporate headquarters from 1987 to 2003. It is three stories, constructed of red brick and gray limestone. It is built in the German Renaissance Revival Architecture style. It has fine decorative detailing, totaling 35,000 square-feet. It has also served as an apartment building and commercial space. Several of its rooms were donated to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library by the law firm Katz & Korin, which moved to the building in 2004. The space used for the library is the former home of the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art.[7]


External video
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Dec 17, 2010, C-SPAN, 16:39
  1. ^ Gonzales, Matt (10 November 2010). "New Library Will Showcase Vonnegut's Life". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Rapp, David. "Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Tackling Digitization". The Digital Shift. Library Journal. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  4. ^ a b Fitzsimmons, Emma Graves (19 November 2010). "Indianapolis Honors Its Literary Native Son". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Samways, Ana (15 August 2011). "Sideswipe: August 15: An Oldie but a Goodie". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Downtown Apartment Flats Thematic Resources (excerpt)" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-02-25.  Photo
  7. ^ "Emelie Building Indianapolis, IN". Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf, Inc. Retrieved 26 March 2012.