Meet the Collection team in our new regular blog feature and peak behind the scenes at the Seven Stories Archive.

What’s your name and what do you do at Seven Stories?
Hi, I’m Alison Fisher and I’m the Exhibition Manager.

Alison selecting artwork for an upcoming exhibition at Seven Stories

Can you tell us a bit about your role?
I work alongside the Senior Curator Gill Rennie to curate the exhibitions here. They go on display at Seven Stories and out on tour at museums and galleries around the UK. I work with authors, illustrators, designers, makers, and lots of different staff here to develop each exhibition, pulling together concepts, original material and activities to make exciting and inspiring exhibitions all about children’s books. It is an ever evolving but always exciting role, and has given me so many opportunities to meet and work with some fantastic people.

What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I’m working on our new exhibition,
Time to Get Up. This exhibition is due to be open to the public in March 2017, and has been a really fun project to work on. The exhibition is all about things that everyone does every day, and how we can use books to navigate and explore our lives. The exhibition is primarily for under 7s and their families, and we are showcasing a huge range of kinds of books, styles of illustration and subjects. It has been great getting to know new illustrators for this project, and as it is quite a broad topic it has allowed us to really show how diverse children’s books can be.

The exhibition will be broken up in to different areas, mirroring universal experiences in any young child’s day – getting up, being at home, going out, eating, bath time, bedtime. We are also exploring new ways of introducing original material to young children, and are working with designers to develop interactive showcases to display work from each book.

What’s your favourite item in the Seven Stories collection and why? 
This is a really hard question, after working here for eight years I’ve got many, many favourites! But, I am going to have to go with the Enid Blyton typescripts. I grew up reading Blyton, mostly my mum’s many old copies she had kept, and if as a child I had known I would grow up to actually be able to read her original typescripts and diaries, I wouldn’t have believed it! There is something really magical about books we read as children, and the impact they have on us lasts a lifetime, so to then come across that as an adult is just amazing.

I was lucky enough to go down to pick up the Blyton archive from the auctioneers when it was purchased, and then worked on our Blyton exhibition – so I also feel like I’ve been part of their story here at Seven Stories too.

I have a huge soft spot for many of our other collections, and every week find something new and exciting, but far too much to talk about here!

Typescripts for 'Five have a Wonderful Time' and 'Five go on a Hike' by Enid Blyton
EB/01/03/02 and EB/01/03/01 © Estate of Enid Blyton

What has been your favourite experience of working with the Seven Stories collection?
After quite a long time with Seven Stories, this is also quite a hard one to pin down! What I love is to be able to work on a new exhibition from our Collection, and go and spend time in the stacks choosing and finding new material that I want our visitors to be able to see. We have a huge quantity of material in our store, and it is my job to choose what specific items represent the stories and themes we are including in our exhibitions. It is such a wonderful resource to draw from, and so varied!

One particularly stand out experience was working with the collection on the Rhyme Around the World exhibition. This used material from our Harold Jones archive, as well as newly acquired artwork for the Over the Hills and Far Away book. This was a really special exhibition, the OTHFA book was a culmination of a project one of our founder’s Elizabeth Hammill had worked on for a very long time, so to be able to bring that to the public at Seven Stories and out on tour was really special. The exhibition has just finished its tour and I’m really going to miss it!

What was your favourite book as a child?

I’ve already talked about my love of Enid Blyton, but my absolute favourite was Mr Galliano’s Circus. Although I never wanted to ‘actually’ run away to the circus, something about the freedom and that lifestyle really inspired me. I’ve not re read it as an adult though, I do want it to keep its special place in my childhood!

But I can’t just choose one, that just isn’t enough! My abiding and most loved book is Matilda by Roald Dahl, with illustrations by Quentin Blake. I was besotted with this book for years, and desperately wanted to be able to move objects with my mind. I think it spoke to me as a bookish girl too, and although my home life was nothing like Matilda’s, I really empathised with her as a character. It definitely had a huge impact on my life too, after reading it, I was determined to make weekly library visits, and have continued my love of the library right through to adulthood. I remember taking it with me on holiday once, and then being distraught that I had left it behind – only for it to turn up and for me to be very, very relieved!

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