Write What You Know
Many of Steinbeck''s best-known books centered on the life and struggles his fellow citizens on the Monterey Peninsula. Steinbeck''s perspicacious depiction of local characters aroused outrage in earlier days. "Of Mice and Men" and "East of Eden" both scored berths on "most frequently banned books" lists and for their "language and vulgarity" were burned in the public square across from the center that currently pays him homage.
However, winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and subsequently the Nobel Prize for Literature changed the local populace''s perception of his work. Today, a grand facility dedicated to his honor stands at the end of a newly revitalized Main Street in downtown Salinas, his birth city.
The building itself is an impressive edifice constructed of glass and steel. Once inside, visitors are invited to follow through interactive stations including a number of dioramas and theater screens where clips of the many movies produced from Steinbeck''s work can be viewed. Here you can stroll through Steinbeck''s early years via examples of his creative works, notes, and journals, which are incorporated into recreated scenes of his life and his fiction. Many lesser-known characteristics are revealed; for instance, Steinbeck''s love of the King Arthur legends and the secret language he shared with his sister, Mary, inspired by his favorite childhood text.
Exploring this tribute to the area''s native son, even visitors who are informed Steinbeck fans will be surprised to find such extensive evidence of his prolific career and varied interests all in one place. The actual trailer that carried Steinbeck and his dog, Charlie, across America is on display along with paraphernalia and memorabilia from the writer''s journey to the Baja with biologist Doc Ricketts.
But the center also seeks to expand upon the author''s primary themes of man''s connection to his environment by building visitor and community awareness of how that connection shapes and inspires life. The museum serves as a cultural and community center for the town and a exhibition center for the arts as much as for a repository for extensive archives of the author''s writings.
The center just finished a recent expansion that houses a new exhibit hall focused on the agricultural heritage of Monterey County - an obvious tie-in to Steinbeck''s legacy. Following a timeline of the valley''s development, the exhibit spotlights the people and processes that have brought the area''s bounty to the world''s tables.
Steinbeck immortalized his home through his writing. How fitting that his gifts are now acknowledged with a center dedicated to his contributions.
Results 1-6of 6 Reviews
March 7, 2004
This is a hands-on museum, so even though a lot of the content isn't something that small children can appreciate, at least there are a lot of hands on exhibits for them to interact with.
Some parts of the museum kind of get me emotional. One of Steinbeck's novels depicts the dust bowl immigrants who moved to CA in hopes of jobs. Many came to Salinas. These people, who were often called "okies," and that's basically how my family ended up in Salinas. Seeing how these workers lived and were mistreated is a very sad thing, but it is a part of history that can't be forgotten. Steinbeck was born in Salinas, by the way!
Anyway, aside from the museum depicting his novels and life, it also has a new wing that depicts Monterey County culture and life. It shows many of the cultural events that take place throughout our county and many of the events as well.
Admission for adults is $10.95 and there is a discount for students (with ID) and seniors. Children’s tickets are also discounted.
On a side note, when Oprah revitalized her book club, the first book she chose was a John Steinbeck novel and she recently visited the museum and John Steinbeck's birthplace, which is just down the street from the Steinbeck Center. Steinbeck is also buried in Salinas at the Garden of Memories. You can visit his grave. The cemetery is located on the corner of Abbott St. and E. Romie Lane (see mapquest.com for directions!).
From journal Monterey / Salinas CA - Steinbeck Country
by smmmarti guide
October 28, 2003
From journal The Enchantments of the Monterey Peninsula
by John Lamb
Colorado Springs, Colorado
October 7, 2003
The grave is unadorned and plain, fitting for a man so concerned with the common man. He is buried in the Garden of Memories in Salinas. The people at the gift shop at the Steinbeck Center were very willing to help us and give us directions to the cemetery. Steinbeck's grave is located in block N-5. His grave is a flat stone and located in a family plot that does not bear the name Steinbeck. The cemetery is not very quiet and located on a main road. When I was there, someone had left a ceramic Easter egg in tribute. Go figure.
We quietly sat for a few minutes, altough it is not as peaceful as one would imagine. It does not look over anything quite as gorgeous as I thought it would. There is a passage in Travels with Charley where he describes a hill looking over the whole Salinas valley. That may have been a better place for him. However, I do like that there is not much hoopla for his grave. No busts or statues. Just his name written on a flat stone. That seems better suited to a man who spent so much of his life writing about the people. He was a writer not concerned with personal fame, but with exposing the social ills of our society. Steinbeck's grave is a good last stop on a tour of his Salinas.
From journal Steinbeck's Salinas
October 6, 2003
The center is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm, except for major holidays. Adult ticket prices are $11 with discounts for teachers and students.
First, go to the room with Steinbeck's passport photo on the entrance to see a video that gives a good overview of his life and work. It is about a 20-minute video that is well worth the stop. The rest of the center is full of interactive and interesting displays on Steinbeck's life and works. The center also gives insight into historic Salinas, including the plight of the migrant workers that are documented in The Grapes of Wrath. The center also shows excerpts from videos and plays of the many adaptations of Steinbeck's work. There are also fun activities and guessing games for students of elementary age to partake in. The best part of the exhibit for me was the inclusion of the actual Rocinante, the camper truck Steinbeck took on his trip around America in the late 1950s. The book Travels with Charley is a great account of this trip and Steinbeck shows insight into the problems we would face as Americans in the years to come.
The center also includes a gift shop that has all of his printed works as well as numerous other trinkets. A great place to load up on t-shirts, mugs and posters. The official website is .
February 6, 2002
The Steinbeck Museum is a wonderful tribute to the writing of Salinas's most famous son. The visitor journeys through Steinbeck's life by walking through his books. Exhibits are built around each of his most famous titles, and excerpts from his books are found everywhere in the building. I have long been a Steinbeck fan, but I enjoyed running my finger across sentences I have not visited in some time. There is also a short film that always runs on Steinbeck's life to introduce visitors to the man behind the stories.
A separate room offers rotating exhibits of art and photography. Upon my visit in February, 2002, I got to see a wonderful photography collection by Dorothea Lange that will be displayed until April.
The gift shop is large and also worth a visit.
Allow at least an hour or two to enjoy The Steinbeck Museum.
Operating hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. dailyAdmission: $7.95/Adult (Discounts available for seniors and children.) More Information: www.steinbeck.org
From journal Running the Big Sur in a Monterey Weekend
by Judy Andreson
August 17, 2000
From journal Salad Bowl of the World