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The Beat Museum

The First Countercultural Movement in the US Started Right Here

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The Beat Museum

If You Dont Know Jack You Better Visit The Beat Museum

Photo By Ocean Malandra
Although everyone knows who the hippies are, and the famous "Summer of Love" is seen as turning point in American culture, not everyone knows that it all began with a group of writers known as the "Beats". Disenchanted by mainstream culture after the violence and atrocities of WWII, the beat generation was America's first countercultural movement and led directly to the social revolutions of the 60s, 70s and beyond.

Also check out my article on the history of the Beat Generation.

Visiting the Beat Museum

The Beat Museum is squeezed in between the strip clubs of Broadway in North Beach, close to the favorite hangouts of the Beat writers like Vesuvio Cafe and Spec's Museum Cafe.
  • Address: 540 Broadway, San Francisco
  • Hours: 10am to 7pm, Seven Days a Week
  • Admission: Adults $8, Student/Seniors $8
  • Contact: (415) 1-800-KEROUAC (1-800-537-6822) www.kerouac.com

What to See at the Beat Museum

The two story musaum has a surprisingly large range of historical artifacts and memorabilia from the Beat period, including enough books for sale to be qualified as a bookstore in and of itself. The bookstore area is open to the general public free of charge, but it is well worth it to pay the admission and see the other exhibits:
  • The '49 Hudson: The 1949 Hudson used in the 2012 film "On The Road", which is the official adaptation of the iconic Jack Kerouac novel, is on display in the museum - complete with the road dust it picked up during the filming.
  • The Beat Cine Room: In the back of the first floor of the museum, a small movie theater shows historical footage, including interviews with prominent beat writers, as well as other film clips related to all thing Beatnik.
  • The Beat Shrine: Upstairs, the museum holds a diverse collection of original poems and artwork by prominent beat writers, including "The World is a Beautiful Place" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who is one of the last surviving Beat poets in North Beach and still runs City Light Books - the major publisher of beat works - right across the street.
Also check out the collection of newspaper articles and magazine stories from the time, which show just how important and controversial the Beat movement was in its heyday. Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" for example was banned on obscenity charges, even though now it is considered the seminal work of the movement - if not the century.

Shopping at the Beat Museum

The bookstore section of the Beat Museum, which is admission free, is not only fully stocked with both classic and modern books by and about the beats but sells t-Shirts, posters, postcards and a variety of other beatnik and North Beach souvenirs.

Events at the Beat Museum

From poetry readings to film screenings, art shows to live music performances, the Beat Museum hosts an eclectic variety of events and presentations throughout the year. Check the current schedule for upcoming events.
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