Monday, February 23, 2009

Creepy Crawlies: Insects in Picture Books

This virtual exhibition, compiled by the Cotsen Children's library at Princeton University, explores the depiction of insects in children's books throughout their history (that is, the history of children's books. Insects go back a ways...). The introduction explains that while the other, furrier characters in childrens books are meant to seem cute and identifiable, insects are "frequently represented in ways that provoke fear, disgust, and annoyance." The items selected are chosen to explore this theme, and also provide a few exceptions to the rule.

Two different types of metadata are provided in two different areas of the site, which makes things a bit overcomplicated. The first type is placed along with the images in the virtual exhibition, each is displayed as an enlargeable jpeg with information on the artist, title of book, author of book, date published, publisher, and country of origin. A small (easily missed) link on the front page takes the visitor to a "image credits" portion of the site, organized like a bibliography of the various childrens books. Unfortunately, information on the medium of the illustrations is not provided. The digitization methods/standards used are also not mentioned.

This digital collection, bereft as it is of detailed metadata/subject tags and so forth, is pretty obviously intended primarily for children. Though it could also serve the needs of parents and libarians/educators who work with children (particularly those who work with children that have interests in things buggy), as it does provide a detailed rundown on several quality books on insects of all genres: story books, natural history/science books, etc. But as an exhibition on 'the art of bug books' or some such, the lack of information on media holds it back from being all that it could be.

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