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Destination Texas: Abilene’s NCCIL is ‘a museum for anyone and everyone’



ABILENE, TX — COVID-19 has forced hundreds to cancel summer travel plans as out-of-state travel comes with more concerns, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something fun while staying in the Lone Star State.

Each week we will highlight a travel destination as part of our Destination Texas series.

This week we’re in the Key City.

You’ve driven by the signs and seen the sculptures, but if we flip back to the first page of this book we’ll find out the title “Storybook Capital of America” starts right behind the doors of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL).

“The Mayor at the time, Dr. Gary McCaleb, read a book to a local class called Santa Calls by William Joyce, and the backdrop was Abilene,” said NCCIL Executive Director Trish Dressen. “Gary asked Bill one day and said, ‘This art is stunning, where is it?’ and Bill was like, ‘Well I think it’s under my bed,’ and at that time there was really no entity that took this art and really celebrated it.”

Now more than 20 years later, one original illustration has turned into hundreds that fill this once-empty canvas at the NCCIL.

“We’re a museum for anyone and everyone,” said Dressen.

The eyes behind the frame belong to Debbie Lillick, who has been pretty busy despite the COVID-19 shutdown.

“What I get to do is pick the art that goes into the exhibit,” said Lillick.

“Any exhibition is normally at least two years worth of planning. Because of COVID-19, this exhibition we planned in less than four weeks,” said Dressen.

The theme for the new exhibit is ‘Encore,’ taking viewers back not just through childhood memories, but through Abilene’s history.

The NCCIL opens at noon Tuesday through Friday and is free and open to the public.