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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 7, 2005

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UI Museum of Art Will Show Scroll of Kerouac's 'On The Road' Jan. 19-March 13

"On the Road" is on the road and coming to Iowa City.

The University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) will present "Jack Kerouac: On the Road," an exhibition of Kerouac's scroll manuscript of the iconic Beat Generation novel, typed on nearly 120 feet of continuous paper. The manuscript will be shown Jan. 19 through March 13 in the museum's North Gallery.

The scroll is the physical embodiment of Kerouac's spontaneous writing method. One of the most remarkable literary manuscripts in existence, "On the Road" is a key work of American literature and marked a turning point in 20th-century culture. The classic novel of freedom and promise of the open road gave life to the so-called Beat Generation, a mysterious subculture that conflicted with the conformist and materialistic American culture of the 1950s.

Typed by Kerouac in New York City in a 20-day marathon in April 1951, the scroll comprises the first draft of the definitive Beat Generation novel. The original manuscript was typewritten single-spaced onto 10 12-foot lengths of paper that were taped together. It also includes numerous penciled deletions and word changes, in some cases substituting fictional names for the real name of the author and his companions, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Since its publication in 1957, "On the Road" has sold more than 3 million copies and has been translated into 25 languages.

"We're thrilled to be the only venue on the manuscript's four-year national tour to display the entire length of the scroll," said Howard Collinson, director of the UIMA. "We encourage everyone, fans and critics alike, to experience this exclusive showing of an American literary artifact."

The scroll has seldom been seen publicly before. Iowa City will be the only venue in the Midwest displaying the scroll in 2005.

The appearance in Iowa City is part of a 13-stop, four-year national tour of museums and libraries that began when James S. Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, bought the scroll for $2.43 million in 2001.

"My goal all along was to have it and share it with all those who want to see it, whether it's in this country or other countries," Irsay said in an interview with the Associated Press. "It certainly wasn't something where I'm going to buy this because some day it will go up in value or I'm going to buy this because I want to sit and look at it. I was drawn towards it."

When Kerouac died, his estate was reportedly valued at less than $100. The scroll, which was once thought to have been stored in a dorm room closet, exchanged hands often after Kerouac's death in 1969. It was housed at the New York Public Library until the 2001 auction, which was held to pay for debts in Kerouac's estate.

The manuscript has been on tour since the beginning of 2004 and has already been shown in Orlando, Fla.; Boulder, Colo., and Milwaukee, Wis. After leaving Iowa City, it will travel to Las Vegas, Nev., where it will be shown at the Las Vegas Public Library March 24-May 15. The tour will continue through 2007, with additional stops in Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; San Francisco, Calif.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Chicago; Denver; Santa Fe., N.M.; and New York.

The manuscript of "On the Road" (copyright Estate of Anthony G. Sampatacacus and the Estate of Jan Kerouac) is on loan from the collection of James S. Irsay.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and noon to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots west and north of the museum.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art visit on the World Wide Web. Information on other UI arts events is available at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,

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