Some of our readers may remember that Michael Millner, a professor in the UMass Lowell Dept. of English, and I are working on a new Kerouac project for Lowell. Last year, we received a $35,000 Creative Economy Initiatives grant from the UMass President’s Office to create (1) a small permanent orientation exhibit about Jack Kerouac for the Visitor Center of the National Park Service and (2) a companion website that will become the go-to Kerouac site worldwide. This past fall we were awarded a $5,000 grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities to assist the development of the website.
We hired Chris Danemayer of Proun Design to help us with the exhibit. Chris designed the wonderful room-sized exhibit in the NPS’s Boott Mills Gallery that was produced to complement the display of Kerouac’s famous “On the Road” scroll manuscript in the summer of 2007. The exhibit and 30 allied programs (readings, concerts, vintage car show, etc.) drew 25,000 people to the city. The exhibit won a national award from the American Association for State and Local History.
A main element of the orientation exhibit will be a wall map that illustrates key Kerouac literary sites in Lowell. The exhibit will also include an audio component that will let people hear Kerouac reading excerpts from his writing. The idea is that the exhibit will be a starting point for anyone (resident or visitor) who wants to explore Kerouac’s Lowell. David Blackburn of Lowell National Historical Park and the Park team have been our collaborators on this project. The website will be hosted by UMass Lowell. John Sampas, who represents the Kerouac Estate in Lowell, has offered us the domain name jackkerouac.com for the website, which is the go-to name that we needed. Google and other search engines should then send any inquiries to the UMass Lowell site first, which will be great for the visibility of the school and city and ensure excellence in the quality of the information sought by student researchers, readers, potential visitors, and others.
Our goal is to have the exhibit ready in time for the ribbon-cutting for the new and improved NPS Visitor Center at Market Mills, which some people may have noticed is being renovated this winter. There will be a new reception area and gift shop in front. The “new” Visitor Center is scheduled to be unveiled on Doors Open Lowell weekend, May 6-8. The Kerouac website should be launched shortly after.
Web photo courtesy of www.lowellcelebrateskerouac.org