The University Record, November 9, 1998

Symposium, exhibition explore ‘Secret Spaces of Childhood’

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Children know the importance of hiding out, of finding the “just for me” place where they can’t be seen. Secret spaces may be found inside or outdoors, in a tree fort or den of snow, on the roof or behind the stairs. Just as fantasy inspires hideaways, children’s books provide refuge and a lens to a world apart.

This week, the Residential College will present “Secret Spaces of Childhood,” an exhibition and symposium on children’s books, remembered hideouts and illustrations.

Fantasy inspires hideaways, whether it’s an imaginary otherworld like Oz or the so-called “ordinary” neighborhood of Pooh Corner. The place may be literary or psychic, local or exotic, but a secret space can be found through the lens of every children’s book.

Through stories, acting, building, discussions and appearances by Mother Goose and Beatrix Potter, “Secret Spaces of Childhood” will explore children’s literature and the clues about how the young relate to the physical world.

The Nov. 13–14 events will bring together students and teachers, artists and writers, psychologists, librarians, parents and children, architects and planners in a forum of inquiry related to land use and the needs of the young. They will explore connections between recreational spaces for children, idyllic sites and refuges in juvenile literature, and world-building as a creative process.

The program is presented in collaboration with Nichols Arboretum, the International Institute, School of Education, and College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Sponsors include Arts of Citizenship, Center for European Studies, DeLancey Design, Elling Family, Foto 1, Humanities Institute, Nicola’s Books and Little Professor, Office of the Vice President for Research and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

For more information, call 647-4349, send e-mail to or visit the Web at

Nov. 13

• “A Day of Story Tellers and Their Stories,” noon–2 p.m., Nichols Arboretum.

• The Sharon Stephens Memorial Lecture: “Places of Refuge for Children in an Uncertain World,” 2–3:30 p.m., International Institute.

• Exhibition opening and reception, 4–6 p.m., Residential College (RC) Art Gallery and Benzinger Library.

• “Video Kids and the Simulation of Play,” 7:30–9 p.m., Schorling Auditorium, School of Education.

Nov. 14

• Refreshments, 9–9:30 a.m., RC Auditorium.

• “The Treasure in the Box: Folk Tales and the Shaman,” 9:30–10:30 a.m., RC Auditorium.

• “Children’s Theater and Building the Wendy House,” 11–11:30 a.m., RC Auditorium.

• “Child-Centered Spaces and Design Communities,” 2–4 p.m., Room 126, RC.

• Reception, 4–5 p.m., RC Gallery and Benzinger Library.


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