Small Talk

In Pursuit of Fun

In Pursuit of Fun

Inspired by the popular board game, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum partnered with Hasbro, Inc. to create Trivial Pursuit®: A 50-State Adventure. The interactive exhibit highlights unique facts about the states. Did you know that Trivial Pursuit originated from a Scrabble night gone wrong. Facing a game with missing pieces, two members of The Canadian Press set about creating their own board game. Two years after its release, the game had sold more than 20 million copies, establishing itself as a household name.

On view now at the Strong Museum of Play, exhibit visitors find their way through a series of games, puzzles, and trivia questions similar to those found in the traditional game. You can dress like a pioneer and climb into a covered wagon in Nebraska, or play a pinball game of baseball in Boston’s Fenway Park. There’s even a display that lets you change a tire in the Indianapolis 500 – minus the pressure of a ticking course clock and screaming fans, of course.

Photo: Trivial Pursuit Cards. Dirk1981, Wikimedia Commons.

A Pistol from the (Past) Future

A Pistol from the (Past) Future

In 1928, the world was introduced to Buck Rogers, a World War I hero who spent 500 years in a suspended state after exposure to radioactive gas. Rogers awoke as a full-fledged superhero equipped with a futuristic weapon. As his popularity grew, Rogers’s adventures were chronicled in comic books and a radio show.

First sold in 1934, the Buck Rogers XZ-31Rocket Pistol by Daisy Manufacturing Company was one of the first “space guns” ever produced. Its futuristic shape and distinctive lines made it the grandfather of rayguns. The gun had a distinctive “zap” sound and retailed for 50 cents. When it was first offered in Macy’s Department Store, over 2,000 people stood in line to get one!

Seeing Double: Furnishings Fit for a Georgian Colonial

Seeing Double: Furnishings Fit for a Georgian Colonial

William R. Robertson furnished Twin Manors with historically accurate, 1:12 scale period furniture, accessories, and textiles produced by over 100 craftspeople, including some of his miniature artist friends and even his mother! At less than a foot tall, the master bedroom contains every eighteenth-century luxury (or at least what they considered luxury) imaginable: an embroidered bed canopy and spread, a brass bed warmer, and hand-worked rugs. All the textiles are either original designs by contemporary American artists inspired by historical pieces, or copies of objects in museum collections.

The center hallway combines elements from Tulip Hill (c. 1756 in Maryland) and The Lindens (c. 1754 in Danvers, Massachusetts). The stairway is composed of more than 1,000 pieces and the railing cap alone took 50 hours to make. The hand-painted wallpaper depicts 18th century houses. Heather Stewart Diaz spent more than a year on the watercolor scenes. The landing holds a tall case clock and the corner cupboard in the entryway holds a matched set of Imari bowls made especially for the house. No corner was left untouched!

Lovely Lilli

Lovely Lilli

You might recognize this blonde bombshell from somewhere … could it be one of Barbie’s distant relatives (remember Francie?) or maybe one of her many friends? Well, sort of. This 11 ½ inch tall beauty is (unofficially) the inspiration for the first Barbie doll, released in 1959.

Bild Lilli doll is based on a 1950s comic strip character that appeared in the Hamburg, Germany tabloid Bild-Zeitung. In the comic, Lilli is a sassy secretary who uses her … uh … charm to get what she wants. In 1955, Lilli’s creator, cartoonist Reinhard Beuthien decided to market Lilli as a doll. She was sold in a few toy stores and cigar shops in Europe, but was likely more of a novelty. Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, stumbled across Bild Lilli on a trip to Germany in 1956, and brought a few dolls back with her. After Barbie’s huge success in the early 1960s, Mattel purchased the rights to Bild Lilli and the rest is history!

A Storied Past

A Storied Past

If the residents of the V&A Museum of Childhood’s dollhouses could talk, can you imagine the stories they’d tell? That’s exactly the focus of the special exhibit Small Stories: At Home in a Doll’s House. Fictional family dramas, posh parties, and even spooky mysteries told from the viewpoints of dolls speak to the time period of their home.

Twelve dolls’ houses spanning 300 years of history are displayed, including an 18th century London townhome, a 1930s modern villa with a swimming pool, and a swinging ‘60s high-rise flat. Not just lovely on the outside, the contents of the houses also reflect the everyday lives of residents, guests and employees who would have inhabited the full-sized homes of their day. The exhibit includes a special art installation Dream House in which designers have created miniature fantasy rooms that reflect the imagination, technology and art of today.

Photo: Whiteladies House, 1935, Moray Thomas, England. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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