REXBURG – Braden Chancellor is inviting the community to have “controversial conversations.”
That’s the name of a new exhibit he’s created in the Special Collections Department at Brigham Young University-Idaho. He’s a senior studying history, and the exhibit, which opens the first week of October, highlights the history of banned books from the early 1900s through today.
It will kick off with an open house the week of Oct. 2, which is National Banned Books Week. It will include a variety of activities, along with 12 book displays.
“We’re specifically highlighting the history of these books and why they’re controversial. These displays … are going to have QR codes linked to a website, where (there will be additional information),” Chancellor tells EastIdahoNews.com.
There will also be interactive exhibits, including a replica of the Grandin Press, which printed the first copies of The Book of Mormon.
The exhibit will primarily focus on children’s books. One of Chancellor’s favorite titles on display is “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf. First published in 1936, the book was an instant hit and was made into an animated short film two years later, according to Wikipedia. Twentieth Century Fox adapted the story into a full-length animated feature in 2017.
The 20-page book tells the story of a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. He is later forced into the ring in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, but is sent home when he refuses to engage.
Chancellor explains what made it so controversial in some parts of the world at the time of its release.
“The book was burned by Adolf Hitler in Spain because of what was going on at the time. Before World War II, leaders in the Spanish Civil War criticized the book for (its theme of pacifism),” says Chancellor.
At the time, Chancellor says Hitler’s supporters felt the theme was in direct opposition to the Fascist movement.
Other titles featured in the exhibit include numerous Dr. Seuss works, which Chancellor says were taken out of circulation because of what some considered derogatory depictions of race. Chancellor discusses other books in the exhibit in the video above.
The idea for the exhibit was sparked earlier this summer when Chancellor attended the gay pride festival at Porter Park.
“I noticed quite a few protestors there,” Chancellor recalls. “There were a couple protestors who were interacting with others (in a hostile way). There was yelling back and forth, but there was no (productive) dialogue.”
Being able to have a conversation and learn from other people’s perspective is important, Chancellor says, and something that is missing in public discourse today.
“This issue of banning books, specifically picture books in elementary schools — I find it really fascinating that the dialogue is either they shouldn’t be banned or they should. There’s no in between. I developed this exhibit to act as a forum for conversation,” he says.
Ultimately, he hopes people walk away with a better understanding of the difference between educational and harmful content, and the ability to “push their own boundaries.”
“(I want people) to learn a little bit more about the world at large,” Chancellor says.
“Controversial Conversations” will be on display through Dec. 15 in room 220 of the David O. McKay Library.