Wednesday, August 06, 2008

700 Hundred Years of Childhood

No, this isn't a joking reference to George Bush's prolonged adolescence. A cousin of mine is responsible for this stunning exploration of childhood and pedagogy through children's books that will go on show at the Newberry Library in Chicago in the fall. Its going to be extra-ordinary and not to be missed. This is a true labor of love. She was working at the library in a minor capacity and discovered that they "had" a "collection" of children's books without knowing it. For years she catalogued the collection herself, while rising through the ranks to become a curator. This is the fruit of literally years of quiet labor in the stacks.

"Artifacts of Childhood shows that childhood itself is not a fixed and immobile state, but instead it is defined culturally," said Paul F. Gehl, co-curator of the exhibit and Custodian, John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing. "By exploring the similarities and changes in children's books and games over the last 700 years, visitors can chart the evolution of the child as student, reader and consumer."

Accompanied by a full public programs series, including lectures, performances, and public discussions on children's literature, the exhibition will showcase 65 of the Library's most important and beautiful children's books, organized into six broad thematic categories: pedagogy; moral instruction of the young (including books on good manners); fiction written for children; the impact of children on the book trade; the child at play; and the child as author. This will be the first exhibition in two decades at the Newberry dedicated to the exploration of children's books.

Jenny Schwartzberg, co-curator and the Newberry's gift specialist, said, "The exhibit will inspire teachers, writers, illustrators, parents and everyday viewers to think in new ways about children's books, the history of childhood and the history of education. For children, the "aha" moment will be when they see that kids born hundreds of years ago were very much like kids today and read the same types of books and played similar games."