Books come to life in USM’s Special Collection


Pop-up books capture the imagination of children and adults.

PORTLAND, Maine — If you’ve ever curled up with a good book, you might feel like the words are flying off the page while reading.

For some books, words and much more literally do jump off the page, and we found a collection of these books in a rather unlikely location.

Nestled on the sixth floor of The Glickman Library on the University of Southern Maine campus in Portland is the Special Collections Room. As the name suggests, the books here are under high security.

But not everything here is serious literature.

This area of ​​the library that houses collections of African American literature and LGBTQ material also houses a colorful collection of pop-up books.

Susie Bock is the Special Collections Coordinator at USM.

“The technical term is ‘moving book,'” she added with a smile.

Pop-up books are those colorful volumes that offer flaps and wheels, and often collapse when loved by children. But not this collection. The hundreds of pop-up books here are in pristine condition.

Bock helps decide which USM collections will accept.

“Pop-up books are primarily children’s books for much of their history, and children’s books give us a unique view of society,” she said. “Children’s books are ways we imprint on our children, so children’s books often convey the values ​​of society. Maybe not what society actually is, but what a society thinks of it -same.”

You see these values ​​reflected in children’s books in every era. For example, when society turned its attention to the environment, pop-up books followed.

“All of a sudden you’ll see tons of books popping up about nature, desert and ocean bugs and animals and what’s at the bottom of the ocean,” he said. -she added posting a book about desert creatures.

Special collections, even these mobile books, are there to support all aspects of the USM curriculum.

“Special Collections have been used by many university departments, but mostly in the humanities. When we were able to sell them to an engineering class, I was like ‘yes!’ because the structure used in pop books -up to make things appear or to make flaps is of interest to engineering students,” Bock said with a smile.

And all of the special collections don’t just represent literature, they represent history.

“Students get really excited about dealing with original materials, historical materials, things that relate to our community, our communities that we serve,” said David Nutty, director of libraries and learning for the ‘USM.

The books, donated by a Bates teacher, were simply collected and never used, which is why they are in perfect working order. The collection spans from the 1930s to the 2000s, with the majority of books from the 80s and 90s.

“They actually start out as medical texts,” Bock explained. “And if you think about it, that makes sense, because to study the human body, you have to remove the skin. And once there are muscles. So you have to remove them to see the bone, and then remove the bones to see the organs.”

Bock showed me “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” by Robert Sabuda, who is considered less of a book writer than a paper engineer.

Sabuda’s “Wizard of OZ” book even includes special glasses to read the hidden text.

In the second half of the 20th century, pop-up books played to adult audiences.

“They also become works of art in themselves,” Bock said. “When I think of artist’s books, and there are all kinds of definitions, but for me an artist’s book, the format of the book is as important as the content of the book, and it’s definitely a pop- up.”

The University of Southern Maine Special Collections are open to the public.

People must have photo ID to register. To find out more about how to make an appointment to visit the USM Special Collections, Click here.


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