Small Talk

Toys Take the Stage

Toys Take the Stage

Given how much children love playtime, it seems logical that a teacher would want to incorporate more toys into their classroom lesson plans. The Toy Museum: A Mini Musical offers instructors the ability to do just that. Whether it’s language arts, social studies, performing arts, or the concept of sharing, the play (about playing) offers an educational experience for students from pre-K to third grade.

The event’s main character, Queen Marlene, guides the audience through magical stories of toy history, and a large doll, Rosie Rascal, stirs up trouble for the rest of the characters on stage. The show was written and produced by the Toy of Museum of NY’s founder Marlene Hochman. A strong believer in the power of toys as educational tools, Hochman told The New York Times, “If we let our young children today sit in front of a computer or to play with electronic games, we are not giving them the opportunity to think on their own or to create on their own. It’s already preprogrammed, so what kind of inventors are we going to have?”

Photo: Courtesy of the Toy Museum of NY.

Painting the Miniature Madame

Painting the Miniature Madame

T/m’s miniature painting of Madame de Pompadour glows like the oil paintings of the Old Masters. The artist, Johannes Landman, has been known to label himself a perfectionist and his own “worst critic” when it comes to his art. He pays attention to every detail within his paintings to masterfully achieve the subtle color changes found in works such as Madame de Pompadour.

Although strikingly similar, the original full-scale painting by François Boucher was painted on canvas, whereas the miniature is painted on a wooden panel. Landman exclusively uses wood because he feels the texture of canvas would be too bold for 1:12 scale work. To prep the wood surface, Landman applied several layers of a white paint mixture called gesso as a primer, sanding each layer after it dried. Then, using ultra-fine 000 size brushes he layers on the oil paints until he is satisfied with the final product. Stay tuned as we explore more of the mini madame’s lovely qualities.

Happy Accidents

Happy Accidents

Would you believe that the infamous Etch-a-Sketch was inspired by the replacing of a light switch?! Originally called, “The Magic Screen,” the toy’s inventor was working as an electrician when noticed that drawing on a light plate’s decal cover created images on its opposite side.

The truth is, many toys have accidental origins. So many, in fact, that the National Retail Federation compiled a list of the top ten most stumbled-upon playthings, including Play-Doh. Its creators had only intended the compound to serve as wallpaper cleaner. The oldest toy on the list is the Slinky. In 1945, Richard James, a naval engineer, dropped a tension spring he was creating for a battleship and watched it “slink” down a staircase. Two years later, Richard and his wife Betty sold 400 Slinkys during a 90-minute demonstration at Gimbel’s Department Store.

Photo: Inside view of an Etch-A-sketch toy showing the plotter-like inner mechanism, with the aluminium dust removed, Wikimedia Commons.

The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

Drum roll please… The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures (yup, that’s us!) will be reopening Saturday, August 1, 2015! The construction is finally wrapping up and we’re getting the building all neat (we’re talking neat enough to eat off the floors) and pretty in preparation for the collection’s homecoming. We’ve got lots of exhibits to fabricate, objects to install, and a two-story toy sculpture to put together.

While we begin the countdown to August (159 days, 2 hours, 1 minute, 52 seconds… but who’s counting?!), check out our new website! Thanks to support from the Victor E. Speas Foundation, Bank of America, trustee, you can browse our collection, search for volunteer and internship opportunities, and purchase museum memberships. And make sure to stick around for sneak peeks over the next 159 days!

17 Winter Street

17 Winter Street

Whether it was a big, shiny bicycle or a coveted baby doll, some of the most memorable childhood toys were received at Christmas time. This dollhouse is no exception. A little girl named Mamie Burt found this dollhouse under (or perhaps near) her Christmas tree in 1875. We don’t know much about Mamie, but we can figure out a little bit about her from her dollhouse.

Based on its construction and size, the dollhouse looks to be the work of a cabinetmaker. The front of the dollhouse is removable and the front door includes a street address: 17 Winter Street. More than likely, Mamie’s parents were members of the upper class and commissioned this dollhouse for her. The furniture Mamie played with may be gone, but the house is full of interesting architectural details. Check back here at Small Talk soon for more!

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