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   from the issue of March 23, 2006

Childhood read ignites career fascination


Carole Levin discovered her muse on the shelves of a public library.

ELIZABETH RESEARCHER - Carole Levin, Cather professor of history, holds a rubber duck designed to look like Queen Elizabeth I. Levin...
 ELIZABETH RESEARCHER - Carole Levin, Cather professor of history, holds a rubber duck designed to look like Queen Elizabeth I. Levin, inspired by a children's biography she read in her youth, has built a career focused on the life and reign of Elizabeth I. Pictured at left is a brass lady bell, provided by Levin for the "Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend" exhibit. Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.

During a regular, childhood trip to the library with her mother, Levin randomly selected a children's biography on Queen Elizabeth I. When she started to read the book, Levin found she could hardly put it down. And, when she was finished, Levin wanted to know more about the legendary female monarch.

"I was 9 or 10 years old when I fell in love with Queen Elizabeth," Levin said. "I knew nothing about her before checking out that book. Ever since, I've been fascinated with her."

A professor of history, Levin hopes Elizabeth will spark interest on campus. She and Joan Barnes, senior lecturer for University Libraries, co-wrote an application that drew the traveling exhibition "Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend," to UNL. The exhibit is on display in Love Library through April 20.

"We are very excited to be able to bring this exhibition of beautiful images to campus," Levin said. "It is really amazing."

Like the biography that drew Levin to the queen, "Ruler and Legend" guides visitors through the life and rule of Elizabeth I.

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was never expected to ascend to the throne. Third in line, Elizabeth became queen after death ended the short, tumultuous reigns of her stepsiblings Edward VI (1547-1553) and Mary 1 (1553-1558).

Inheriting a tattered realm, with many doubting her claim to the throne, Elizabeth held her ground and became a uniting force. Her rule was buoyed by a key military victory in which the English navy - aided by bad weather - routed the Spanish Armada to become the world's strongest naval power.

Elizabeth's measures helped ignite English commerce and industry, creating a golden period in exploration and literature.

ELIZABETHAN STUDY - John Nesiba, a first-year dental student from Brigham City, Utah, studies on the second floor of Love North...
ELIZABETHAN STUDY - John Nesiba, a first-year dental student from Brigham City, Utah, studies on the second floor of Love North on March 19. The Queen Elizabeth exhibition is in the background. Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.


Mix in Elizabeth's iron will, a legend for lavish court affairs and survival through numerous assassination attempts, and it's understandable how Levin - and others - would be drawn to this strong female role model.

"Elizabeth survived on her own through intelligence and wit," Levin said. "She was a tremendous ruler and is an excellent example to young women, then and now."

Levin's fascination with Queen Elizabeth I continued through college and led her specialized career in history. Levin, a Willa Cather professor since 2002, has written two books and numerous papers exclusively on Elizabeth I.

In 2003, Levin was selected to serve as a senior history consultant at the Newberry Library. During her tenure at the Newberry, the premier humanities library in the world, the original exhibition, "Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend," was on display to celebrate the queen's reign on the 400th anniversary of her death.

Levin said the experience at the Newberry was a tremendous opportunity for research on Elizabeth.

Levin said the application to bring the traveling version of "Ruler and Legend" to UNL was among 40 selected from a pool of more than 120 to host the exhibit.

The exhibition panels in Love Library are enhanced by Elizabeth I-related items from the University Archives, Barbara Trout (associate professor in Textiles, Clothing and Design), and Levin.

Levin's donations range from handcrafted boxes featuring Elizabeth to a whimsical duck dressed as the queen.

"I have a number of images of Elizabeth on my walls, but my collection has nothing of any real value," Levin said. "It's mostly fun things."

Levin hopes those who see the exhibition find a better understanding of Queen Elizabeth and her contributions to England and the world. She said the exhibit also shows that Elizabeth remains poignant when compared to issues of today - including debate over whether a woman can rule a nation; the price of peace; true causes of war; place of religion in society; and how political leaders control their image.

"In terms of my career, I think Elizabeth and I were meant to be," Levin said. "She was really an interesting person and great to study. She wasn't perfect, but was a successful ruler and it was very lucky for England that she became queen."



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