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Why teachers should know the Virtual History Exhibit

We have an opening in the post schedule this week because there’s no class tonight, so I want to make a plug for our Virtual History Exhibit which displays items from our archives over the past 100 years. Because of our unique place in the history of children’s books in the US, the VHE has examples of some of the major movements in our field, and some of the biggest battles in print (see our Controversies & Kerfuffles section).

When we first launched it in 1999, I was surprised by how many kids were visiting and signing our guestbook. Then I started to understand. If you are teaching students about primary source materials, we have them here — from names a lot of children will recognize. You can see actual letters from Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Susan Cooper, and others. And you can hear interviews with Robert McCloskey, Rosemary Wells, and James Marshall.

So teachers started sending their students on a treasure hunt at the VHE, challenging them to find specific bits of information, and signing the guestbook when they were finished.

That was 17 years ago. I wonder how much has changed since then. Is the Internet still a safe enough place for children? Do web filters really work? Do teachers still give online assignments? Really, I’d like to know.

Stay tuned because I’m working on some additional features.

For anyone interested in dollhouses, there was a doozy of a dollhouse (1:6 scale, approximately Barbie Fun House size) at the Bookshop for Boys and Girls. It was known as Greenaway House and was home to the Bookshop’s famous resident doll, Alice-Heidi. Back in her heyday, Alice-Heidi even presided over a doll convention (participants were called dollegates) that pondered the timely question, “Are Animals Replacing Dolls in Home, School and Playground?”

I assumed Alice-Heidi went to a young relative and the dollhouse got lost in someone’s basement or attic when the Bookshop closed in 1936. Actually, that probably is what happened, until it turned up, much the worse for wear, in 2014. Since then, a dollhouse expert in Connecticut has been working to restore it and promises new photos when the project is finished. Much of the furniture was made to Bertha Mahony‘s exacting specifications, and when the recent discovery included some of the furniture plans as well, allowing for a full restoration.

AliceHeidi house in 1924

Greenaway House, home of Alice-Heidi, in 1924.

aliceheidihouse_2014

The dollhouse was rediscovered in 2014 and will be restored by a dollhouse expert.

One of the two murals and the fine woodwork.

One of the two murals and the fine woodwork. A little TLC and this will be one spectacular dollhouse!

So there you are. The 7-year-old in me drools over these photos. Who am I kidding? The middle-aged woman does, too!

If anyone out there has a lead on something else we could add to our Virtual History Exhibit, please email me!

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.

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