Small Talk Tag: Toy

Do You See What I See?

Optical Toys

If you’ve been following along, you’ve noticed by now how essential toys are to our culture’s story. And here it is again, a tale of how science influenced toys, which influenced the creation of moving pictures. In Optical Toys, part of the new permanent exhibits at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, visitors explore the 1820s discovery of persistence of vision. Scientists theorized that the human eye remembers an image for a fraction of a second after it disappears. Thus, if two images are moving rapidly, the mind blends them into one image. Caught on yet?!

While this was only part of how the mind perceives movement, it set in motion (see what we did there?) the exploration of how the mind explores action and depth through optical toys. Think View Masters, stereoscopes, and kaleidoscopes. In the center of it all is a giant zoetrope showing one of our favorite toys taking flight. Through the use of fast moving picture strips viewed through a slot (think of it like a flip book), our now permanently grounded plane is able to soar the skies.

The Fashion Queen

Fashion Queen Barbie

While having three Barbies with three different hair color and styles is nice, wouldn’t one Barbie with the ability to have all three be even better? In 1963, Mattel introduced little girls to a Barbie doll that could change her hairstyle faster than a box of at-home hair dye. Fashion Queen Barbie sported a sculptured hairdo that could be covered with three wigs: a blond bubble cut, a brunette pageboy, and a red flip. Not only were wigs a popular fashion item in the early to mid-1960s, but the hairstyles included were all the rage too! Barbie began to sport the bouffant bubble cut in 1961 in response to the newest haircut of 1960s fashion icon, first lady Jacqueline Onasis Kennedy.

Although she arrived in a striped gold and white lamé swimsuit, this Barbie had an extensive wardrobe thanks to the mother of her owner, Donna. Donna’s mother was a home economics teacher and handmade a faux leopard coat and hat, a striped white and blue sundress, and a red dress that made Ken’s head turn!

A Grand Grocery

Christian Hacker

Where and how we buy our food has changed a lot over the last 150 years. Today’s big box stores, drive-through windows, vending machines, and mail-order meals are a far cry from the simple grocery shops of the nineteenth century. Although they didn’t have to choose between paper or plastic, children, particularly girls, in the Victorian era were expected to learn how to buy groceries in preparation for running a household of their own.

This ornately decorated toy grocery (accessorized here as a bakery shop) was made by the acclaimed Christian Hacker company of Nuremberg, Germany. Details like hand painted paneling, colorful lithographed wallpaper, and mirrored alcoves made this an expensive high-end toy. The blue banners that mark the contents of the store’s drawers are in English, indicating this toy was made for export to England or America. The drawers are demarcated with familiar goods like lentils, raisins, and limes, but also some stranger ones like chocolade and greuts, which seem to be mistranslated!

A Hall of Collections

toy collections

Within the museum’s collection, we have a lot of sub-collections. We also know a lot of people that have great collections on view in their homes or lovingly tucked away in boxes. And that’s when it dawned on us… why not make a hall in the newly-renovated museum dedicated to highlighting these collections?! Shortly after, the Hall of Collections was born. The hall features eight cases that will rotate annually to feature different beloved playthings.

What can you find in the hallway now? Toy dishes from England, France, and Germany dating to the late 19th century; Star Wars toys from the first three films, including Kenner’s original display standard for the first four action figures produced; Madame Alexander dolls, including the Dionne Quintuplets, Jane Wither, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; toy school rooms from the United States, Germany, France, and Spain; boards games from the 1930s and 1940s; and, of course, we couldn’t leave out marbles!

Last, but not least, one case features the museum’s new Aaronel deRoy Gruber Disney Collection. Donated by the family of the internationally recognized artist, the collection features tin and mechanical toys that show the stages of Disney character development from The Marx Merry Makers Mouse Band to the modern Mickey Mouse.

Toys with Disabilities

Toy Like Me

Toys aren’t just fun, they’re also important teaching tools that help children make sense of the world around them. One of the oldest categories of toys, dolls, have helped kids learn important skills ranging from parenting to fashion. What else can dolls teach? A new movement is calling for more toys that promote self-esteem and inclusion.

For kids with physical disabilities, finding dolls and toys that look like them can be a challenge. Enter Toy Like Me, an organization that calls on big toy companies to produce toys that reflect children with disabilities. In just a year, Toy Like Me’s social media prowess has gained the attention of Makies, Playmobil, and LEGO who now make toys representing children who have physical disabilities, use wheelchairs, hearing aids, service animals, and more.
Photo: Toy Like Me.

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