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Graduate students curate exhibit at Milner Library

Poster of William Steig’s cover for The Horn Book Magazine from 1986. He received the Caldecott Medal for the distinguished American picture book for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble in 1970.

Graduate students enrolled in this semester’s Studies in Children’s Literature course are getting hands-on experience by creating their own exhibit.

The exhibit, Image and Text, showcases books and materials from Milner Library’s Children’s Literature Collection. Milner Library’s Special Collections librarian, Rainie Themer, worked closely with English Professor Jan Susina on identifying titles from our Children’s Literature Collection that would be of interest to his students and that would be of interest to the wider campus community.

At the beginning of the fall semester, Special Collections welcomed students from ENG 470 for an introductory class on Special Collections and Rare Books, taught the students how to handle Special Collections materials, and introduced them to a wide range of titles from the Children’s Literature Collection. The students then worked with Susina to choose titles from Special Collections that they would like to exhibit.

“It has been an absolute pleasure working with Dr. Susina’s class on their Image and Text exhibit this semester,” said Themer. “We are always thrilled at the opportunity to provide instruction and materials that support the education of our students at Illinois State University. It has been incredibly rewarding to work with students so passionate about our Children’s Literature Collection, and we are delighted that through their work, these materials will be shared with the greater ISU community!”

“The process has been great and I love working with the folks at Milner. Everyone has been abundantly helpful.”—Dan Freeman

After identifying their titles, Milner Library’s conservator, Becky Koch, examined the books to make sure they were in good enough condition to be displayed in an exhibit. ENG 470 also identified posters, illustrations from oversized books, and original illustrations from Special Collections to be digitized and printed for the exhibit. All of their work can be seen on Floor 6 of Milner Library from October 30, 2018, through January 14, 2019.

“Working on this exhibit has enabled graduate students the opportunity to work with various children’s literature material found in Milner’s Special Collections which ranges for rare editions, signed copies, manuscripts, original artwork, and posters,” said Susina. “In curating this exhibit, they are learning how to share their knowledge of children’s texts to a wider audience outside of the classroom.”

“What I really appreciate about this assignment in Dr. Susina’s class is how it gives us an opportunity to consider another kind of academic work,” said Katy Lewis, a graduate student in the Department of English. “Here, we’re learning about how to consider what images will be most appealing to a variety of audiences and how we can communicate what we’re learning about how pictures and words work together. It definitely takes a different way of thinking, which I think is really important.”

<i>Alice's Adventures in Wonderland</i> (1969). Written by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Salvador Dali

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1969). Written by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Salvador Dali

Lewis’ classmate Dan Freeman agreed: “The most interesting part of this process has been thinking about the books that I have chosen—and that I have done research on—in conjunction with my classmates’ books and research. Putting together an exhibit such as this one forces you to connect yourself with the work that others are doing, and in a way, you end up learning more, I think, than if you alone were selecting four or five books to present on.”

On October 30, students will share their process during the opening reception for Image and Text. This presentation will take place from 5:30-7:00 p.m. in the Northwest Corner of Floor 6 at Milner Library. Light refreshments will be provided.

For more information about Special Collections at Milner Library, visit their website or email