The Free Library’s project, “Milestones in 20th-Century American Children’s Literature,” funded by a Council on Library and Information Resources grant, got off to a roaring start this summer when a special collections archivist and three part-time archives assistants were hired. The archivists are creating finding aids for the collections of six renowned authors of children’s literature, including Tomi Ungerer, Evaline Ness, Virginia Lee Burton, Robert Lawson, Lloyd Alexander, and Carolyn Haywood. These finding aids will be available through the library’s online catalog when the project is complete. The archivists are also creating item-level Dublin Core records so that a selected number of the documents and artwork can be digitized.
The first part of the project to be completed was the cataloguing of the Evaline Ness papers. Ness (1911-1986) was an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books. She began her career as a fashion model and illustrator. In 1938, she married famous Prohibition agent Eliot Ness, and while he worked in Washington D.C. during World War II, she studied art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. After their divorce in 1946, she continued her career as a successful illustrator in New York. In 1954, she began illustrating children’s books and infinitely preferred it to the “rat-race” of the advertising world. Her books for children include the Caldecott Medal winner Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine (1967), the American Library Association Notable Book Josefina February (1963), Exactly Alike (1964), and Fierce the Lion (1980).
Her papers at the Free Library include her illustrations for Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, as well as illustrations for Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog by Sarah Catherine Martin. The collection is relatively small, but the artwork it contains is beautiful and innovative, using many different artistic media to create a sense of whimsy and fun (for Old Mother Hubbard) or an atmosphere of adventure and mystery (for Alexander’s Prydain books). A display featuring facsimiles of these items will soon be installed on the ground floor of the Central Library, near the children’s department. You can also follow this project’s progress on the new Children’s Literature Research Collection Facebook page! The archivists will be discussing particularly interesting finds there, and on this blog, for the duration of the project, and will also announce related displays, exhibitions, and talks.
The Children’s Literature Research Collection is open by appointment, M-F 9-5. For more information, please call 215-686-5370.