This Toy Museum Rejuvenates the Child Within
There is a child that still lives in all of us no matter how old. The Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, is banking on your nostalgia to geek out with the “Museum of Play,” a toy museum displaying your favorite toys as a kid. Prepare to lose yourself in memories amongst the colorful collection of more than 500,000 historical toys and games from all over the United States and the world.
Before the joy stick there were flippers on the side of pinball machines you would push to navigate a metal ball bouncing off bumpers. They were so popular back in the 70s, Elton John sang a song about a wizard who “plays a mean pinball.”
At the toy museum you will find over 250 arcade machines lined up one after the other.
“Pinball is real. You can feel the way the game plays. You can feel the way the game moves as you’re playing. It’s just my nature to keep these machines going. They were made to last. The fact that we have games 30, 40, 50, 60 years old is amazing to me,” Martin Reinhardt, curator of pinball and arcade games, told Great Big Story.
Collections are divided by category. More than 70,000 toys like action figures and yo-yos are on display. There are hundreds of rubber duckies retired from bath time, and an army of miniature toy soldiers standing poised for a game of battle.
“Toys always reflect what’s going on in the world around them. Whether it’s economic boom times, construction toys are big. When the U.S. is at war we see all sorts of military and war toys,” Chris Bench, vice president of collections at the museum and chief curator, told Great Big Story.
Nicolas Ricketts, curator of board games, estimates a collection of 10,000 lining the shelves of the museum from around the world, like Chessindia. We know the game as Parcheesi, just one of the names given to an American adaptation of the Indian cross and circle game.
Of course they have Monopoly, but there’s also more board games steeped in history such as Empire Builder, based on building railroads, and Total War, with its self-explanatory cover.
“It parallels American history since the revolution. When you think in terms of games they all tend to represent years in which they were created. They have a different way of getting into the mindset of people who lived a hundred years ago,” Ricketts told Great Big Story.
If you loved your dolls growing up you will be overwhelmed by the museum’s collection of over 15,000 from the 18th century to today.
Memories of your first Raggedy Ann to playing dress up with your Barbies – and Ken – will come flooding back.
“Dolls are special because of the way we relate to them. We project ourselves, our hobbies, our interests, our values towards others. When we look at the history of dolls and how we played with them it shows that we connect to people from the past in ways that we might not have expected,” Michelle Parnett Dwyer, curator of dolls, told Great Big Story.
Playing should always remain an integral part of who we are and toys from our past may just remind us of that.
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