The goal of any museum exhibition is to tell a story. That story can be about the work of a particular artist, the events of a certain historical period, or an individual object – like a book. Escape the August heat and explore some great museum shows currently on view up and down the Northeastern United States. You guessed it: many of these exhibitions focus on storytelling and books! And even if you can’t physically make it to these places, you can explore the shows and collections via the website links provided below from the comfort of your own (air-conditioned) home.
New York City, NY
The New York Public Library has mounted a lively exhibition about the importance of children’s books in our culture and society entitled, The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter. The show features of over 250 books, letters, manuscripts and illustrations drawn from the Library’s collection, including an entire room designed after the classic Good Night Moon, and an original photograph of Alice Lidell, who inspired the protagonist in The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. There is something for everyone in this show, no matter your age. Remember what W. H. Auden pointed out: “There are no good books which are only for children.” Check out this slideshow in The New York Times for a sneak peak.
While in New York City, make sure to swing by The Morgan Library & Museum for an unrivaled collection of literary and artistic treasures. Founded by the banking tycoon J. P. Morgan in 1906 to house his personal collection of books and manuscripts, the library and museum are a must-see for any book enthusiast. Morgan’s person library space remains intact, complete with plush reading chairs, massive wooden tables, and several stories of bookshelves. Ask your kids how it does and does not resemble your local library…Visitors can see 3 copies of the Gutenberg Bible, the first printed book in the world (as of 2009, only 48 are known to survive), and an autograph manuscript of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony on D Major, K. 385 – pretty cool! You can even reward the kids with a trip to F.A.O. Schwartz after.
Next we travel to Philadelphia, where you and your family can relieve the story of America’s independence. The Philadelphia Museum of Art (remember Rocky running up those front steps?!) has several wonderful shows on view for the entire family this summer. First, visit Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney, which presents the drawings and watercolors of this famed American-born artist and illustrator. Pinkney illustrated many childrens classics, including The Patchwork Quilt (1985); Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story (1998); and Sweethearts of Rhythm (2009).
Check out the other exhibitions that kids may enjoy, including CandyCoated Wonderland; Design for the Modern Child; and All Dressed Up: Fashions for the Modern Family (there was indeed a time before Baby Gap and Old Navy!). If you can’t make it in person, you and your family can peruse the slideshows for each exhibition on the Museum’s website.
From the city of America’s independence to America’s capitol! There’s a gem of an exhibition titled Little Golden Books on view at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum. These classic children’s books continue to line millions of bookshelves in America and around the world. Who could forget The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Red Caboose. See how this publisher engaged an entire generation of kids through innovation in the children’s book industry. The Museum even has a special online exhibition.
Want to tell your friends that you visited one of the two largest libraries in the world? Then make sure to drop by the Library of Congress before leaving DC. Housed in four separate buildings, the Library’s collection spans over 32 million books and other printed items and 61 million manuscripts (wow!). You can view the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, and in case you missed it in New York City, another complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible, this time printed on vellum. Don’t miss the two Stradivarius violins and one of the largest collections of Lincolnalia. The Library offers family tours and an expansive website.
These highlights represent just the tip of the iceberg – which is melting very quickly in the summer heat. Let us know which other book- and story-themed museum shows you’ve already visited or plan to visit this summer.