Small Talk / Exhibits

In Pursuit of Fun

trivial pursuit

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 Storied Past

dolls' houses from the V&A Museum of Childhood

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.

Stitches of the Past

Black dolls

For some toys it can be somewhat easy to uncover their history. Consulting old catalogs, collector books, company histories, and even personal anecdotes from their owners help historians like us at T/m to tell the story of a special toy. For some toys, however, their past is harder to uncover because they were not mass produced and may have been “loved to death.”

An exhibit at the Mingei International Museum explores the storied past of some of America’s most fascinating and mysterious playthings: black dolls. The exhibit showcases over 100 unique handmade African American dolls from the collection of Deborah Neff. The dolls represent a rich handcrafting tradition spanning from 1860 to 1930. Some dolls in the exhibit are also paired with an antique photograph depicting them with their young owners. The dolls on display depict a variety of emotions and give viewers a rare glimpse into the lives of their creators and owners.
Photo: Courtesy Mingei International Museum.

Getting the Inside Scoop

toys the inside story exhibit

Ever wonder what exactly makes Jack jump out of a perfectly good box? Or thought about how a plush Elmo masters the hokey pokey? The answers to these important toy questions and more can be found in Toys: The Inside Story , a traveling exhibit developed by the Montshire Museum of Science in Vermont.

Fourteen interactive stations allow museum visitors to discover the basics of toy animation through the hands-on manipulation of gears and circuits. Visitors can build a series of linkages that make Hungry Hippo chomp or learn about the wires that guide an Etch A Sketch’s drawing line. One station reveals how Operation’s Cavity Sam’s nose lights up when pretend surgery goes awry! Toys has traveled to venues nationwide, and will open at the Tellus Science Museum this summer.

Photo: Gary Hodges – www.jonreis.com

Banned for Life

banned toy

You’re probably familiar with The Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, where rejected playthings find community amongst ice and snow hoping for a ride in Santa’s sleigh. (Who wouldn’t want a water gun that shoots jelly?!) In reality, lawmakers and the public call for the removal of many “misfit” toys from store shelves for safety reasons ranging from choking hazards to toxic paint.

Luckily, the Banned Toy Museum in Burlingame, California provides a home for prohibited toys. Started in 2009, this collection features everything from hand-chomping Cabbage Patch dolls and lead-painted Sponge Bob notebooks to science kits containing uranium ore samples. Like the rest of the museum’s objects, these were banned for being too offensive or hazardous to consumers. It may not be a ride with Santa, but the museum will preserve these ill-fated playthings for years to come!

Photo: Battlestar Galactica Missile Launcher, 1979, Mattel, United States. Courtesy of the Banned Toy Museum.

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