Small Talk Tag: Museum

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.

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.

Cut Along the Lines

Black Paper Dolls

Just when you felt that you would never be able to tackle coloring in the lines, kindergarten threw another curveball at you: cutting along the dotted lines. A hard task to tackle, especially with kiddie scissors, but an essential one for playing with paper dolls. The kids who played with the paper dolls in T/m’s newest exhibit were well-seasoned line cutters!

Stereotypes to Civil Rights: Black Paper Dolls in America documents the 150-year evolution of cultural images of African Americans from Little Black Sambo and Aunt Jemima to Jackie Robinson and Beyoncé Knowles. Catch a glimpse into the history of racial perceptions with more than 100 dolls from the collection of noted author, lecturer, and collector Arabella Grayson on view from February 20, 2016 through August 21, 2016.

Pedal to the Metal

Pedal Cars

T/m’s recent renovation included space for two temporary exhibit galleries. The first exhibit in the larger gallery focuses on America’s obsession with shiny metal bodies on four wheels. Pedal-powered cars, boats, and trucks grew in popularity in the 1950s as the rising American middle class moved to the suburbs. And as we all know, cars and the suburbs go hand in hand. Thunderbirds, Packards, and Dodges introduced children to the freedom and responsibility of the open road.

Pedal to the Metal: Pedal Cars and American Car Culture features cars from T/m’s collection, the collections of several local individuals, and vehicles from the Smith Collection at the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska. Some of our personal favorites include the 1955 Good Humor Truck, 1941 Steelcraft Pursuit Plane, 1960 Deluxe “Flat Face” Dude Wagon, and the 1953 Torpedo. Pedal to the Metal rolls out August 28, 2016, so you have plenty of time to cruise in and see it!

How Do They Do It?

how miniatures are made

We get this question at T/m a LOT when people visit the fine-scale miniature galleries. We stay awake at night contemplating it ourselves. So, when we started talking about what we wanted to add to the miniature galleries, a look into fine-scale miniature artists’ studios was at the top of our list.

In T/m’s new exhibit, In The Artist’s Studio, visitors can watch four videos that take them into the studios of William R. Robertson and Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel. Not only did the artists let us invade their studios for multiple days of filming, which included shoving cameras inches from their faces (everything is really small!), but they also donated all of the tools they used and created multiple pieces that illustrate the steps in the process towards the final product. Robertson turned a metal candlestick on a lathe and carved a dovetail drawer. Chellis Wessel painted an egg tempera canvas and turned a ceramic plate on a wheel. While the exhibit provides some answers, it will still leave you in awe of their work!

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