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  • Writer's pictureDawn Smith

Curious George Returns Home to the de Grummond Collection

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Three people in a group, one dressed in a yellow top and yellow hat.
Yoshi Sakai (dressed as the man in the yellow hat) talks with Ellen Ruffin and Chiharu Mine about the collection and its successful travels in Japan.

On June 10, the Curious George Collection arrived back in Hattiesburg to its home at The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection after a two-year journey in Japan. On June 11, the process of opening the crates and examining the collection began.

In August of 2017, the collection, which includes original illustrations and manuscripts by creators H.A and Margret Rey, debuted at the first exhibit site in Tokyo. Over the two-year period, the exhibit traveled to six different cities, covering every geographic area in Japan and welcomed more than 149,000 visitors.

NHK, Japan’s public television entity, airs the “Curious George” program throughout the country, and they came to the Collection in 2016 with the request to launch a traveling exhibition featuring Curious George. After initial conversations, NHK began traveling to Hattiesburg to research the project.

Yoshi Sakai, from NHK Japan, carefully organizes pieces used in the exhibit that traveled Japan.

The final visit took place in May of 2017, and included representatives from the shipping company in Atlanta, who would be responsible for transporting the materials to and from Japan. Each and every item was carefully measured and weighed and shipped in the custom-made cases.

The Reys created Curious George while living in France in early 1940. When the German army approached Paris in June 1940, the Reys fled on bicycles to Orleans, where they boarded a train for the Spanish border. They moved on to New York City via Spain, Portugal, and Brazil between June and October. Settled in New York City, the Reys sealed a contract with Houghton Mifflin of Boston for four children's books in February 1941. They published Curious George later that year, although it would not become popular for another decade.

University Libraries’ de Grummond Collection holds the literary estate of H.A. and Margret Rey, curators of Curious George. Dr. Lena de Grummond, a former professor of library science at USM, accomplished her goal of collecting original materials from authors and illustrators of children’s books to use as resources for students by sending handwritten letters to authors and illustrators, including H.A. and Margret Rey. Through her correspondence, she was able to develop relationships on a personal level. Correspondence often included hand-drawn images, which made the letters even more personal.

The de Grummond Children’s Literature at USM is one of North America’s leading research centers in the field of children’s literature. The Collection holds the original manuscripts and illustrations of more than 1,300 authors and illustrators, as well as 180,000-plus mostly American and British published books dating back to 1530. For information about the de Grummond Collection, contact Ellen Ruffin, associate professor and curator for the Collection, at

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