When I wrote my first blog for The Strong more than a year ago, I talked about nostalgia—so it seems appropriate that I should come full circle and take some time to reflect back on my time at the museum before heading off to a new job in a new city. I’ve learned a great deal in the last two years. I can safely handle artifacts and identify French fashion doll manufacturers.
Buzzwords and hot topics permeate the media as the 2012 election approaches. Watch almost any news report and you’ll likely hear phrases such as “fiscal responsibility” and “balance the budget.” As gloomy as the current political circumstances or economic conditions may seem though, history tells us that it’s nothing new. People have long persisted through tough times—and even had their fair share of fun doing it.
Consider a paradox: people who play the fastest devote great lengths of time to doing so. This presents a conundrum only slightly less challenging than a Rubik’s Cube—unless you’re the current world record holder, who solved the puzzling polyhedron in less than six seconds. If you asked champion Feliks Zemdegs, he’d probably say the goal of playing quickly is achieved slowly.
Stroll into nearly any home, school, grocery store, or gas station and, if you look around, you’ll begin to notice books everywhere. I say “if you look” because books have become so commonplace that they barely register in the mind’s eye. Through fiction or fact, verse or prose, art or photography, books exist to spark your interest, ignite your imagination, and propel you on a journey of the mind.
Long before I began working in museums, I studied photography as an undergraduate student. My interest began as a teenager, sparked by a love of black and white documentary photographs. I was captivated by the universal language the medium spoke and the idea that with the push of a button, a single moment could be captured, documented, and kept forever. You can imagine my delight when I recently found myself tasked with sorting through photographs from our collections here at The Strong.
Do you marvel at the toys and dolls on display at The Strong? Ever wonder how they came to the National Museum of Play? As curator of games—board games, card games, and many more—I’m responsible for acquiring historic playthings and popular new examples. But how exactly do we do it?
When you live in a Little House on the Prairie, every day offers a fresh challenge. Who knows what challenges you’ll be confronted with next? Will Pa need to race against time to extinguish a blazing fire? Will Mary and Laura come face-to-face with a pack of wolves? Will Ma and Carrie find a good crop to harvest? Yes, I’m referring to the Ingalls family, who lived on the banks of Plum Creek near the small town of Walnut Grove, but I’m not talking about situations from the Little House books or the television series that aired between 1974 and 1983.
Some folks have reported visions of sugarplums recently—I’ve worked so closely with museum artifacts that I’m hearing their voices. Call me the Toy Whisperer or just plain loopy, but I listen when the museum’s toys and games talk about their New Year’s resolutions. The artifacts have some ambitious goals for 2012, but this doesn’t surprise me at all—they were busy last year, too.