Larry Wolz, Former member of the NCCIL Board of Directors and ex-Chair, NCCIL Exhibitions & Programming Committee
Periodically, someone on the staff at the NCCIL finds it necessary to gently correct writers of articles about the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. You see, the Carle Museum states on its website that it is “the only full-scale museum of its kind in the United States.” The Carle is larger than the NCCIL and has a much bigger endowment and permanent collection of original art from children’s books. Perhaps that is what they mean by “full-scale.” Unfortunately, many writers go on to assume that the Carle was the first and truly is the only art museum in the United States that exhibits picture book art.
In this twentieth anniversary year of the NCCIL, Abilenians should remember with pride that the NCCIL was truly the first independent museum of picture book art in the United States (both foundationally and structurally). The NCCIL was incorporated in the State of Texas on February 28, 1997, and opened its gallery on September 6, 2000. The Eric Carle Museum opened its facility and began operation on November 22, 2002. The NCCIL and the Carle are the only independent museums in the United States that exhibit the original artwork of children’s book illustrators, but there are museums and collections affiliated with educational institutions that have gallery spaces and exhibit picture book art that pre-date both the NCCIL and the Carle museums.
Leonard Marcus, distinguished historian of children’s illustrated literature and national trustee board member as well as consultant to the NCCIL (and incidentally, current member of the board of directors at the Carle Museum), made the primacy of the NCCIL quite clear in his lecture at the opening of the NCCIL Museum building in 2000. He called the NCCIL a “milestone museum—the first non-university affiliated museum devoted to children’s book art in the United States and one of the very few such museums to be found anywhere in the world.” Those facts speak for themselves, even in a post-fact world.