A Road Trip Diary of the Special Collections & Bechtel Committee
Our road trip began bright and early at 6:30am on the Friday before ALA Annual in New Orleans… Four members of the 2017-18 Bechtel Committee met up with Clair Frederick (President of MerryMakers Inc.) and ALSC member Susannah Richards. We set off together for the two-hour trip to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, home of the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles and the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.
Upon our arrival at McCain Library, we were greeted by ALSC member and Curator of the de Grummond Collection, Ellen Hunter Ruffin. Ruffin introduced us to Jennifer Brannock (Curator of Rare Books and Mississippiana), who welcomed the group and talked about the current exhibit in the Archives’ Reading Room, “Spaced Out”. We were amazed at the novelty and range of children’s books on display, with the focus on their cover designs. The display even included Curious George in his space suit!
The group was whisked up to the fourth floor of McCain, the home of the de Grummond Collection; for those unfamiliar with the de Drummond, click here for a link to their website. We began our tour in the staff office where we met three staff members and saw boxes and boxes and bags and bags of a very recent donation of over 400 storybook character dolls designed/manufactured by MerryMakers, a gift from Clair Frederick. Our curiosity piqued, we opened a few of each to see the new dolls waiting to be added to the collection. They included one-of-a-kind samples and original prototype dolls, some never manufactured. We were also privy to author/illustrator correspondence with the company when a doll based on their character was being produced.
Across the lobby area, we encountered a massive photograph of Dr. Lena de Grummond talking with several children. Below the photo was an exhibit of storybook dolls, from a donation made by Bechtel Committee member Stephanie Bange in 2016. The group proceeded into the Archives/Manuscript Room where we saw many wonderful non-print items culled from the de Grummond’s Collection. Highlights were the complete set of framed original artwork from “The Snowy Day” and “Goggles” by Ezra Jack Keats, a door from the home of author/children’s literature professor Coleen Salley, and the collection of storybook dolls donated by Bange. We paused in the digitization area to learn about the work of two staff members who are dedicated to scanning historical books and documents owned by the de Grummond, posting the digitized materials online.
We wandered in the two book stack areas where we saw ranges and ranges of books, as the de Grummond owns over 180,000 books. Included in this area are advanced reader copies, final copies, and different printings and editions of books. It was hard not to resist setting up camp and reading the day away.
After a short walk outside and across a plaza, we went to the second floor of the university’s Cook Library. There, the group posed for pictures by the collection of silver University of Southern Mississippi Medallions. Each silver medallion features an engraved profile of the year’s honoree on the medallion obverse and an illustration from one of the honoree’s works on the reverse; past recipients are listed here. We moseyed down the hall to the de Grummond Children’s Literature Exhibit Room, where we browsed their two current special exhibits: “The Humor of Syd Hoff” and the observation of the “100th Birthday of Newbery Medal-winner, Madeleine L’Engle”. For more information about these exhibits, click here.
Finally, we backtracked into the periodicals room to study the massive (8’ x 60’) unnamed circus mural created by Esphyr Slobodkina. It features the salesman from her book “Caps for Sale” in three scenes that could have come straight from her books, “Pezzo the Peddler and the Circus Elephant”. This 12-panel collage was initially painted in her New York studio; the collage was completed on-site.
Once back to McCain Library, thank yous and fond farewells were exchanged with Ruffin and Danielle Bishop Stoulig (Assistant Curator of de Grummond Collection). The group hopped in our cars and then headed back to New Orleans, arriving in plenty of time for those who wanted to attend the Michelle Obama opening speech.
(Unless otherwise noted all photos are credited to Rachel Payne and Stephanie Bange)
Three members of ALSC’s Special Collections and Bechtel Fellowship Committee collaborated on this guest post.
Maria Dietrich is a Youth Services Librarian at the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville, Wisconsin and serves on the ALSC Special Collections and Bechtel Fellowship Committee.
Rachel Payne is Coordinator for Early Childhood Services at Brooklyn Public Library and past Chair of ALSC’s Special Collections and Bechtel Fellowship Committee.
Stephanie Bange is currently a children’s literature consultant and is a member of ALSC’s Special Collections and Bechtel Fellowship Committee
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This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.