SELCIE’s first exhibition ‘Growing up with Books’ ran from June until December 2018 at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. It celebrated the culmination of SELCIE researchers’ cataloguing and research work in the Museum of Childhood’s book collection.
We had been exploring the collection since 2016; reading everything from 17th century Latin grammar books to 20th century ‘classics.’ The collection is uniquely special in its representation of Scottish writers, publishers, and readers (evident in marginalia and book plates). In the exhibition we had the task of showcasing these strengths in the collection, and also communicating an engaging potted history of children’s books in Scotland to a diverse museum audience. The exhibition was also accompanied by a range of interactive events for children and adults alike.
Visitors were invited to give feedback on the exhibition via postcards. This blog post collates some of the visitor feedback; hopefully you find the responses as enlightening, touching, and funny as we do!
Naturally many of the feedback cards were populated with scribbles, doodles, and drawings. These can still provide insight into exhibition interpretation, such as this drawing of a school girl with the caption ‘time changes’.
It is clear that particular display cases had an effect on visitors – the fairy tale section was particularly popular. One postcard read: ‘I like reading and writing and I love all sorts of fairy tales. This exhibition inspired me to take my old fairy tales books and read.’ Another gestured to the display of scrapbooks and other examples of children’s marginalia and manuscript culture: ‘I love the scrapbooks thank you so much!’
The historical books on display were favoured by some young visitors. Sienna Lamont, age 8, from Glasgow, wrote: ‘I have lerned [sic] lots of history and I am only 8 years old and it [sic] so amazing.’
One visitor wrote that they learned ‘how small books were in olden days’ and another observed that ‘the old books are in such a good condition.’ Ella commented that ‘it was more fun then [sic] I thought it would be’, which is a positive result!
Some young visitors expressed that they had learned something from the exhibition. Constance commented that it was ‘very intresting [sic] very educational.’
Isabella, age 7, from Stranraer, wrote: ‘This inspired me because I dident [sic] know the reading books where [sic] like that.’ We think that in this drawing Isabella is recreating the colourful early nineteenth-century alphabet books which were on display.
Several postcards from older visitors suggested that the exhibition stirred up childhood memories for them. One visitor wrote: ‘It was such a lovely time remembering about long forgotten times, I leave hear [sic] today remembering who I am, thank you.’ We’d love to hear more stories of childhood reading. You can share your memories with SELCIE via this link: https://www.blogs.hss.ed.ac.uk/selcie/your-memories/
Finally, we received the one critique which we had all feared:
This post written by Lois