What Places Fire Your Imagination?

When I was a young boy living in and around Chicago, my family often visited the Museum of Science and Industry. I remember the excitement of entering the U-505, a real German submarine captured in 1944, and tunneling down in a simulated coal mine. I also remember my fascination visiting Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, and being amazed to see a bedpan beside his bed. That got me thinking about how people lived differently in the 1800s—and about how this great President was also a human with wants and needs like the rest of us.

Over the years, I’ve been drawn to places where I could see the artifacts of a person’s life: The room in William Faulkner’s house in Oxford, Mississippi, where he attached to the wall index cards of the unfolding story of his latest novel; the green satin shoes, inkwell and record player in the Denver house of socialite, philanthropist and Titanic survivor Margaret “Molly” Brown; the children’s ice skates and the writing chair in the Moscow house of Leo Tolstoy, where he shortened the chair’s legs so he could be closer to his manuscripts as his eyesight worsened; the cramped spaces of a New York tenement house where refugee families crowded together and mothers stitched clothing by hand to make money and pursue a better life.

What places fire your imagination? And, as a related question, how can we step out of our own lives and experiences to get closer to—and better understand—the lives and experiences of others?

As always, I look forward to hearing about your experiences and insights—and the opportunity we have to learn from each other.


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Photo above is the engine room of the captured German U-505 submarine on display at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. (Photo by J. B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago/Getty Images)