Treasures of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

Examine some of Kurt Vonnegut's personal artifacts that are on display at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in downtown Indianapolis.

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The profile on former Post contributor Kurt Vonnegut in the Nov/Dec print issue of the magazine mentions the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library (KVML), which opened its doors earlier this year in Vonnegut’s hometown of Indianapolis. Despite its name, the KVML is much more than just a library. The non-profit organization also serves as an educational facility, art gallery, and community outreach center. And thanks to the support of three of Vonnegut’s children—Mark, Edie, and Nanny—the library also houses an assortment of the writer’s personal artifacts. Here are some highlights of what the KVML has on display.

Vonnegut’s Typewriter: Vonnegut used this Smith-Corona Coronamatic 2200 during the 1970s to write books such as Breakfast of Champions and Jailbird. A bit of a technophobe, he never switched to word processors or computers, preferring the tactile nature of the typewriter instead.

Vonnegut’s Purple Heart: Vonnegut sardonically wrote in his final novel, Timequake, “I myself was awarded my country’s second-lowest decoration, a Purple Heart for frost-bite.”

A Pack of Vonnegut’s Pall Mall Cigarettes: Throughout his life, Vonnegut was a smoker, a habit he dubbed “a classy way to commit suicide.” His children found this unopened pack of Pall Malls, his preferred brand, behind his bookcase after he died.

An Unopened Letter from Vonnegut’s Father: Vonnegut’s father, Kurt Sr., wrote this letter to his son during World War II, but it was lost in the mail for quite some time. When Vonnegut finally did receive it, he never opened it—and it remains sealed to this day.

Ceremonial Nazi Sword: Vonnegut wrote in Chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse-Five, “O’Hare didn’t have any souvenirs. Almost everybody else did. I had a ceremonial Luftwaffe saber, still do.”

Rooster Lamp: Vonnegut always wrote by the light of this red rooster lamp. It originated in Indiana, traveled to the east coast with with the writer, and has now returned home to “roost.”

Alplaus Volunteer Firemen Reminder Card: In God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, the title character obsessively joins fire departments, spurred on by a horrific experience in World War II. Vonnegut did the same. He wrote in Slaughterhouse-Five that after the war he became “a volunteer firemen in the village of Alplaus, where [he] bought [his] first home.” This postcard from the Alplaus fire department, dated April 4, 1949, was sent as a reminder for a volunteers’ meeting.

Portrait of Kurt Sr.: This framed photograph of Vonnegut’s father hung on the wall of the writer’s work space for years and years.

Rejection Letter: The library has quite a few of Vonnegut’s rejection letters—he liked to save them—which are periodically rotated. This one from The Atlantic Monthly is dated August 29, 1949.

To learn more about the life and work of Kurt Vonnegut, visit the KVML at 340 N. Senate Avenue in Indianapolis. The library is open noon to 5 p.m. daily except Wednesdays (closed on Wednesdays). Admission is always free.

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