In the quiet corridors of the David O. McKay Library, undergraduate curator Braden Chancellor sheds a light on controversial children’s literature with his latest exhibit Controversial Conversations.
The exhibit was set during Banned Books Week 2023, and showed a deep dive into the often debated realm of children’s literature. Chancellor’s exhibit ran from Nov. 13 to Nov. 17, and it will stay open until the semester’s end in room McKay 220.
Chancellor highlights the evolving landscape of children’s literature but also underscores the critical role of curators in shaping public discourse on sensitive topics.
The Special Collections & Archives, “houses items unique to University history and campus curriculum, the history of the Upper Snake River Plain, and changes in writing … documenting the history of Campus and the Rexburg region,” according to their website.
Chancellor’s exhibit has a wider focus by highlighting American picture books that have historically faced bans. He hopes to spark a conversation on the role of controversial topics within children’s reading material.
The tension at the 2023 Rexburg Pride festival prompted Chancellor to create Controversial Conversations — after witnessing the hostility, he envisioned a safe space where sensitive topics could be discussed. This exhibit, he hopes, will be a sanctuary where meaningful conversation trumps discord.
Chancellor previously served as an archivist for the McKay Library. With this exhibition, he hopes to bridge the past and the present, highlighting the significance of controversial conversations in shaping the future of education.
“I was chosen this semester and I had this exhibit,” said Chancellor. “… Basically, you select what the theme is going to be about, do the research for it and then actually get all the books or all the artifacts to display,”
As a history major with aspirations in museum management, Chancellor sees his current role as a stepping stone to his future career.
“I believe, (this is) ultimately what I’m hoping to do for a career,” he says, noting the integral part curating plays in his plans.
Chancellor’s exhibit serves as a mirror reflecting the societal shifts over the decades.
“I found out that these books are getting banned, and then I went down this rabbit hole … of looking at, ‘Okay, well if these books are getting banned today, what made books 20 years ago get banned? And then 20 years before that?'” said Chancellor.
Through his exhibition, Chancellor aims to educate and provoke thought, especially among future parents and educators.
“I think it only takes about 10 minutes of your time to help you decide what I think is going to be okay for a student, for my kid to read, and what I don’t think is gonna be okay,” said Chancellor.
For more details on the exhibit and related events, visit the Special Collections website.