Small Talk / Exhibits

Fame Game

National Toy Hall of Fame

After carefully reviewing hundreds of public nominations, a team of curators, scholars, and historians at The Strong National Museum of Play have announced the 2015 finalists for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Some perennial favorites like the scooter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and American Girl Dolls are back in the running after not making last year’s cut. New contenders Playmobil, coloring books, Jenga, puppets, tops, Twister, Wiffle Ball, Battleship, and Super Soakers will also take aim for a spot in the newly-redesigned Toy Hall of Fame galleries.

And so America, it’s up to you to do your civic duty and vote for your favorite toy now through November 4. The winners will be announced Thursday, November 5. Not feeling so nostalgic about this year’s dozen finalists? Nominate your favorite toy to be included in the 2016 running!
Photo courtesy of The Strong®, Rochester, New York.

Crazy for Kewpies

Kewpie Doll

With their large pointy heads, cherubic bodies, and mischievous facial expressions, Kewpies have become a doll icon over the last century. These potbellied babies were dreamed up by illustrator Rose O’Neil in 1909 and first appeared as a comic for Ladies’ Home Journal. Creative and entrepreneurial, O’Neil developed Kewpies into a line of bisque dolls with the help of German toy company Waltershausen. The dolls were such a success that Kewpies began appearing in advertising campaigns and on products, and they even promoted the women’s suffrage movement.

O’Neil’s Walnut Shade, Missouri, estate now houses the Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum, and Homestead. Visitors can view some of her earliest commercial illustrations, artwork, and hundreds of antique Kewpies. Although Kewpie dolls may not be actively campaigning for social justice or selling JELL-O anymore, they do continue to make the occasional appearance. Japanese “Kewpie fusion” toys are a new spin on the old doll, and rival schools should definitely watch out for this rough-and-tumble football mascot!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Little Big Apple

Panorama of the City of New York

New York City’s tall buildings and busy sidewalks make it easy for the average pedestrian to feel, well, pretty small. Visitors to the Queens Museum, however, have the chance to reverse that feeling by taking a trip to the Panorama of the City of New York. The panorama depicts all five NYC boroughs in super-small 1:1200 scale (one inch equals 100 feet).

Originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair, the panorama was billed as an indoor helicopter tour of New York (the helicopters were actually plastic cars on a rolling track.) Since then, it has been updated several times (the last being in 1992) to reflect new skyscrapers, parks, and other new features. In 2009, the Queens Museum launched an Adopt-a-Building program to help preserve the model and bring it up to date yet again. At $50 a building, that’s the cheapest rent in NYC!
Photo by Scott Rudd, courtesy of Queens Museum.

Viva Video Games!

video games

Did you know the first video game was invented by a physicist in 1958? That practically seems like the dark ages compared to all of the video games we’ve come to know and love in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and beyond! Now that technology is moving at a more rapid pace than ever, what happens to all of the outmoded video game systems, not to mention the games themselves?

Fear not: Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Q*bert and others live on! The Strong National Museum of Play’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games contains every major video game platform manufactured in the U.S. since 1972, more than 20,000 video games for consoles, and more than 7,000 for personal computers. Think of how much allowance that adds up to! Focusing only on console systems, The National Videogame Museum announced its permanent home in Frisco, Texas last year. The museum’s goal is to build an all-inclusive, interactive museum for every game system ever. And before you start gathering your quarters, check out the Internet Arcade, home to some of the best (and super nostalgic) arcade games from the 1970s-’90s.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

kite exhibition

For centuries, kites have remained one of the most universal outdoor toys. A symbol of childhood and freedom, the playthings can be found everywhere from suburban America to Brazilian favelas to the villages of Japan. A new exhibit at the V&A Museum of Childhood prominently displays a colorful kaleidoscope of kites from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Kites from Kabul is a partnership between the museum and British charity Turquoise Mountain. Established in 2006, Turquoise Mountain’s Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture teaches young Afghans traditional arts and crafts like calligraphy, ceramics, and jewelry-making. Videos and photographs of the children who made the kites accompany the installation. A product of the intersection of art and play, the kite exhibition aims to foster greater understanding of Afghan culture.
Photo: Andrew Quilty/Oculi, V&A Museum of Childhood.


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