Holiday-themed exhibit showcases May Massee Collection in Emporia State archives

December 8, 2012

An exhibit showcasing holiday greetings sent to publisher May Massee by renowned artists open Monday at Emporia State University. An opening reception of “Illustrating the Holidays” will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, in Room 119 of William Allen White Library on the Emporia State campus.

The May Massee Collection in Emporia State’s Special Collections and Archives includes original book illustrations by 56 artists, manuscript materials, published books, photographs, audio and video tapes of authors, artists, designers, typographers, and printers whose skills Massee combined to create quality books for children and young adults.

“Illustrating the Holidays” includes original artwork by Boris Artzybasheff, Berta and Elmer Hader, Maud and Miska Petersham, Robert Lawson, and James (Jimmie) Daugherty, among others. 

Massee was manager of Viking’s publications for children until she retired in 1960. During her time there, she published memorable titles such as “Make Way for Ducklings,” “Madeline and the Gypsies,” “Corduroy,” “Pippi Longstockings” and “The Story of Ferdinand.” Following her retirement, Massee continued as the advisory editor for Viking until her death at home in New York of a stroke on Christmas Eve 1966.

“As you might imagine, artists were not always able to make a living by illustrating children’s books alone,” said Ashley Todd-Diaz, assistant professor and curator of special collections and archives. “Many of the illustrators featured in the May Massee Collection sold artwork in other areas such as greeting cards, posters, and promotional or advertising goods. This exhibit also includes a few of these commercially printed cards.”

The exhibit also highlights the artwork of two holiday books from the May Massee Collection: “The Christmas Anna Angel” and “The Long Christmas.” Although both are written by Ruth Sawyer, the books are illustrated by Kate Seredy and Valenti Angelo, respectively,.

“It is captivating to see how each artist brings life to Sawyer’s words and the spirit of Christmas,” Todd-Diaz said.

The Dec. 18 reception includes refreshments and tours of White Library with faculty and staff of University Libraries and Archives. Classes will not be in session that day, so parking should be available in the lot west of the library.

To learn more about the May Massee Collection and to peruse the many holiday greetings and other pieces of artwork that are not currently on display, the Special Collections and Archives is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Illustrating the Holidays” will remain on exhibit through Friday, Jan. 25.

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