UI Museum of Natural History sparks creativity in Iowa City’s aspiring authors

Write Nite, an event hosted by the University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History, allows writers to draw inspiration from the exhibits and use the space to work on their writing projects.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Katie

The UI Museum of Natural History is seen on Feb 24 2018. (Katie Goodale/ The Daily Iowan)

Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

The University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History has continued to prove Iowa City’s worthy  of the title “City of Literature” by hosting a series of writer’s workshops in an unexpected place: its exhibit halls.

The events, known as “Write Nites,” are after-hours open gallery nights where writers of all skill levels are welcome to use the space to work on their writing projects or find inspiration.

Christy Stephan, an English and Creative Writing major, was at the Aug. 29 event to do just that. Stephan explained that she had a few different ideas for stories and was using Write Nite to decide which of them to pursue. Switching up her usual writing environment could be just the thing she needs to make that decision, Stephan said.

Another student who took advantage of the opportunity was Sydney Schnepel, an English and Creative Writing major working on writing a fantasy novel.

“I thought the museum would be an interesting place to write,” she said.

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Schnepel said she is aiming to finish her novel by next August. Later in the year, there are more Write Nites to come for Schnepel to continue her work.

The museum kicked off its first Write Nite this summer on June 18, and there are no plans of stopping them, according to Julia DeSpain, Director of Education and Engagement. In fact, future Write Nites are bringing in new features for attending writers.

“We’re going to have a writer who recently graduated from the Writer’s Workshop to give some writing prompts in October,” DeSpain said, adding that they’re able to do this by partnering with a campus organization called Arts Share.

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This organization also plans to send an instructor to help at Write Nite’s sister event Art Nite, which is tailored for artists to work in the museum.

According to DeSpain, the museum provides more than only a unique environment for writers to work. She said she is hoping that Write Nite will convince writers and writing classes to utilize the gallery halls to jumpstart their creativity.

“People often think a museum is a place where you need to stay quiet, kind of like that old reputation that libraries have, and we kind of just wanted to say ‘Hey, you can use us as your muse. Use this place for inspiration. Especially with drawing and writing, we have really great source material to get your creativity flowing.’”

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