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by Kate Dietrick, Processing staff and Curator of the Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives.

McMullan-1This summer the Children’s Literature and Research Center was thrilled to receive the materials of James McMullan, an internationally known artist most well-known for his theatrical posters, in particular his posters for Lincoln Center productions in New York. In the early 1990s McMullan began producing art for children’s books, including partnering with his wife Kate McMullan for six children’s books which include titles such as I Stink! and The Noisy Giant’s Tea Party. McMullan has sent to the University of Minnesota Libraries the original artwork related to 16 different children’s books, including the watercolors for Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies.

Currently I am in charge of processing the McMullan Collection, which means I organize the materials so that researchers can find what they need, and I make sure the materials are housed properly to ensure their safety.

But why might a researcher want to view these materials?

Besides the sheer beauty of the original watercolors, the collection includes correspondence with publishers, initial sketches of ideas, photographs used for reference for drawings, and color studies for watercolors. When viewed all together the collection provides a unique insight into the fascinating work that it takes going into the creation of a children’s book.

You can follow the ideas, from the original sketching of the pages…


…to the mock-up “dummy” version of the layout of the book…


…to the original watercolor artwork…


…to the final product, in this case as the printed book I’m Big!


The McMullan collection is a delight to behold, from the simple sketches showing the artist’s initial thought processes to the beautiful colors of each watercolor used as the final art. Each shows the effort of creation and real talent of the artist. Whether it’s the playful pigs refusing washing in Hogwash! or the restless baby bear unable to sleep in Papa’s Song, each piece of art tells a story, one that is larger than what ultimately ends up on the final published page.

Processing this collection is my first project in my new position as Assistant Archivist with our Central Processing division; the other half of my time spent in Andersen Library is as the Assistant Archivist for the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives. I am thrilled to be working with the unique art in the Children’s Literature and Research Collection. Previous to taking my position with the University of Minnesota I worked with the archives at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. My training also includes experience as graduate intern in the conservation lab at Columbia University as well as a summer spent with SACI–Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy studying Cultural Heritage Conservation with Italian art and book conservators.

The entire McMullan collection will be available to researchers in the coming months. For more information about the Children’s Literature and Research Collection, visit their website at For more information regarding James McMullan, check out his website at you can view his portfolio, including his stunning theater posters.

Mark Engebretson

Author Mark Engebretson

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