Overview

Title Treatments

Our modern day conceptions of childhood, featuring idyllic images of laughter-filled nurseries and playful backyard games, are less universal than one might think.

In From Morals to Mirth: Shifting Ideologies about Childhood in St. Nicholas Magazine, we explore the rapidly shifting changes in ideologies about childhood and theories in child development in the early 20th century as reflected in the illustrated content of St. Nicholas Magazine, a popular children's periodical of the day. Given the gradual shift away from theories of childhood depravity and a rise in new educational methods that promoted self-directed play and learning near the turn of the century, this exhibit demonstrates through glimpses into the St. Nicholas archive that issues published prior to 1900 evidenced more content with moral or disciplinary messages while issues published around 1900 and after included more content encouraging self-directed play, imagination, and interaction with the natural world.

This delve into the world of childhood over 100 years ago demonstrates how the notions of childhood we take for granted today were much once different, shaped by these fascinating artifacts of mass culture.

Overview