The University of Southern Mississippi’s de Grummond Collection is going international, and it all started with a documentary.
Ema Ryan Yamazaki, a filmmaker and graduate of New York University, began raising money to create a documentary film exploring the lives of Hans and Margret Rey, the authors of the beloved Curious George children’s books.
Yamazaki paid a visit to the de Grummond Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi, which is home to the literary estate of Margaret and H.A. Rey.
According to Ellen Ruffin, curator of the de Grummond Collection, Yamazaki interviewed several people at USM and filmed segments of her film at the university.
The film will be available on Amazon and Hulu in August.
This documentary is what sparked the connection of NHK, public broadcasting in Japan, to Southern Miss.
“They wrote me two years ago and hoped to get materials for the Curious George anniversary year in 2016,” she said. “It didn’t work out for that timeframe.”
However, the group recently visited the university to select items for an exhibit that will travel to a few locations in Japan and will be available to the public.
“They had as many as 14 people here for merchandising of the original artwork,” Ruffin said.
Ruffin said the exhibit will feature several pieces of artwork and correspondence from the de Grummond’s Curious George collection.
“They will also be selling our T-shirts, which I think is cool because it will have the Southern Miss logo,” she added.
The exhibit will be featured in five different locations across Japan. The exhibit is expected to draw approximately 10,000 people each day.
“The materials have already been shipped,” Ruffin said. “Someone came in to build crates for each specific item. They then traveled to Atlanta then on to Japan.”
The correspondence between the university and NHK has been interesting and possibly a bit difficult, as Ruffin said the language barrier and time difference have made it a long process.
“But everything has been pleasant,” she said. “This is very exciting for us.”
Ruffin will soon be on her way to Japan as well to help set up the exhibit for the opening in Tokyo.
“I will help with arranging the items,” she said. “If they need help with chronological order or things of that nature.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” she added. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Ruffin said the decision to share the Curious George materials with NHK was not made quickly.
“We vetted them,” she said. “They have hosted many, many exhibits and events that have all been successful.”
The Curious George exhibit will be “particularly interesting,” according to Ruffin.
“Because it appeals to both children and adults,” she said. “Who doesn’t know Curious George? Most people remember it from their childhood and it is a connecting point for various ages.”
“All cultures seem to recognize and enjoy Curious George,” she said. “He’s a connector for so many people.”