Nearly 30 years after John Steinbeck's death, a center devoted to the Nobel Prize-winning author has opened in his hometown, Salinas, Calif.

The new National Steinbeck Center promises to bring the author's writings to life, exposing new readers and longtime admirers to his works, which championed the poor and downtrodden. The center marks a change in attitude for Salinas, where angry farmers once burned the author's books.The center's interactive exhibits are truly multisensory. Visitors smell sardines and hear sea gulls in a mock Cannery Row, while an East of Eden exhibit includes a refrigerated box car, packed with lettuce.

There's also a barn, devoted to The Red Pony, and an antique car, similar to the one used by the Joads in their Oklahoma-to-California journey in "The Grapes of Wrath." Other highlights include the camper Steinbeck called home while he was researching "Travels With Charley."

The center also shows excerpts from films based on his novels.

The 37,000-square-foot center joins two other Steinbeck attractions in the community: It already has a restaurant, the Steinbeck House, housed in the author's boyhood home and birthplace; and a John Steinbeck library.

Information: 1-408-796-3833; (www.steinbeck.org).