Cornell University Library Explores Animal Legends

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Cornell University Library Explores Animal Legends
New Exhibition Showcases Rare Treasures, Famous Animals & Their Legacies

ITHACA, N.Y. (Feb. 24, 2011) – How do certain animals, real and imaginary — like Godzilla, Mickey Mouse and Jumbo the elephant — become celebrities?

Find out at Cornell University Library’s new exhibition, “Animal Legends: From the Trojan Horse to Godzilla.”

The exhibition opens on March 4 with a lecture by Laura Brown, John Wendell Anderson Professor of English and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. It will be held at 5 p.m. in the Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall, on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca.

Drawing on the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections’ rare books, manuscripts, photographs and other artifacts, the exhibition will explore how and why humans choose to elevate individual animals or entire species to the status of divinities, emblems, mascots and heroes.

Some of the exhibition’s most interesting artifacts include:

  • First editions and early manuscript drafts, including original sketches, of E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little”
  • A 17th-century jade seal carved with an elaborate sitting dragon
  • Godzilla films, posters and publicity materials from Japan
  • An illustrated German book from 1675, showing a potential layout for Noah’s Ark
  • Photos and souvenirs featuring Cornell’s original mascot, Touchdown the (live) bear

“This exhibition is amazingly diverse — it contains items from six different centuries, ranging from old wind-up toys to rare ancient artifacts,” said Elaine Engst, director of the Library’s Rare Book and Manuscript Collections. “It’s unusual to be able to build an exhibition as varied and fascinating as this one without adding outside materials. It really shows the depth of our special collections here at Cornell.”

After the lecture, a reception and the first public viewing of the exhibition will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, level 2B of the Carl A. Kroch Library. Access to Kroch Library is through Olin Library, Cornell’s main library on the central campus. All events are free and open to the public.

The exhibition runs through Sept. 30. For more information, visit

About Cornell University Library
Cornell University is an Ivy League institution and New York's land-grant university. Among the top ten academic research libraries in the country, Cornell University Library reflects the university's distinctive mix of eminent scholarship and democratic ideals. The Library offers cutting-edge programs and facilities, a full spectrum of services, extensive collections that represent the depth and breadth of the university, and a deep network of digital resources. Its impact reaches beyond campus boundaries with initiatives that extend the land grant mission to a global focus. To learn more, visit <>. 

How do certain animals, real and imaginary — like Godzilla, Mickey Mouse and Jumbo the elephant — become celebrities?