Written by Ella Fothergill, Listen to this Story! an exhibition about Children’s Books and Black Britain exhibition placement student (September-November 2022) – this was a joint exhibition with 7Stories, across 2 sites (Newcastle City Library and the Philip Robinson Library).
It is no secret to those who know me that I love children’s literature. My reasons for being passionate about this genre (and why I dedicated my postgraduate degree to studying it) would make for a very long list. But, in a nutshell, I find that children’s books are so fascinating because of the large role they play in shaping young people’s perceptions of the world. In other words, what we learn when we are young profoundly influences our understanding of the world and everything in it and, as such, children’s books have significant power over what beliefs, biases and ideas we harbour as adults.
Given this, I was very excited to see a student placement opportunity which focused on children’s works and Black British publishing – the two subjects which have been the centre of my Masters research. Specifically, this placement offered the opportunity to work with archived children’s works within Newcastle University Special Collections, curating a city-wide exhibition that would highlight the literary work done by Black British people. After reading the job advertisement, I applied immediately and … a few weeks and one interview later, I was offered the position!
Now, three months down the line and my internship is almost over. I have learned a lot along the way and have met many creative, talented people. Here is a summary of my internship highlights and responsibilities:
- Before the opening of the exhibition, I was responsible for writing a caption to go alongside each exhibited work. I really enjoyed this because it involved handling the archived children’s texts myself, some of which were up to two hundred years old. I particularly loved flicking though the first few pages of each book where there was often a handwritten note or an old library stamp.
- I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with graphic designers, authors, archivists and architects. I especially enjoyed meeting the children’s author and illustrator, Ken Wilson-Max, at the exhibition’s opening at Newcastle City Library. He hosted a brilliant talk about “Navigating the World of Children’s Publishing”.
- Following the opening of the exhibition, I have also been involved in a few post-launch activities. These included writing a questionnaire for any exhibition visitors, writing tweets to promote the exhibition on social media, writing blog posts (such as this one and the Listen to this Story! blogpost) and conducting visitor tracking to observe visitor behaviour in the space.
All of these experiences have been both valuable and enjoyable for me. This internship has also allowed me to witness the extraordinary talent and effort that goes into creating an exhibition as well as helping me to understand the world of children’s publishing more fully!