20th Century Children's Literature Exploring the Past, Understanding the Present

Children's Literature: A Mirror on the Past

Children's literature represents a core strength of the University of Oregon's Special Collections & University Archives, with holdings comprising one of the largest and most significant picture-book collections in the United States. Children's literature, which often flies under the cultural radar, is a fascinating rubric through which one can understand the ideological tenor of a society. Our collective values, for better or worse, are mirrored back to us in the stories and lessons of our children. The collections highlighted for this exhibition are reflective of the radical changes that occurred in 20th century American society: at times celebratory, optimistic, and inclusive; and alternately vexing and racist, presenting a white-washed and Eurocentric account of American history. The items selected for this exhibition explore these complex contradictions, with the hope that by better articulating our past, we can come to deeper understandings of the present. Suggested further readings here.

This exhibition was generously funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.