Through the Artist’s Eyes

My love of movable books and of antique toys and games containing the richly colored chromolithographs of the last half of the 1800s brought me to The Strong’s Online Collections. I spent four days “oohing” and “ahhing” over the vast archive of images in the museum’s database before I discovered it was possible to view the actual objects by arranging an appointment or, better yet, applying for a fellowship for an in-depth immersion. Although I learned I was the first visual artist to apply for the fellowship program, my request was respectfully considered, and soon after, I was awarded a fellowship.

Game of Bo Peep and The Game of Circination, The Strong, Rochester, New York

At the end of April, I arrived in Rochester, where flowering trees and bushes in full bloom lined the streets. Christopher Bensch, The Strong’s vice president for collections, greeted me at the museum door and handed me a badge, which turned out to be the key to the kingdom—allowing me access to the museum’s exhibit galleries, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, and escorted tours of The Strong’s vast labyrinth of storage facilities that house more than two centuries of toys.

Domestic Hobbies: The Connection between the Past and the Future

Domestic Hobbies: The Connection between the Past and the Future

Knitting, quilting, and other domestic hobbies appear to have experienced a surge in popularity over the past two decades. Perhaps it is more accurate to state that they have experienced a surge in visibility thanks to social media and other online communities, as the qualities that attract people to domestic hobbies have remained constant for…

Behind the Scenes: Conservation at The Strong

Behind the Scenes: Conservation at The Strong

In the spring, guests attending The Strong’s Museum Secrets events got a behind-the-scenes look at The Strong’s conservation labs and learned about some of the strategies and techniques used to keep collections preserved. In the carousel care lab, guests heard about the history of the Elaine Wilson Carousel, the second largest artifact in the museum’s…

Dino-MITE!

Dino-MITE!

GIFT SHOP. Those two words might strike fear into the hearts of museum-going parents, but for children who have been bribed into good behavior, it is a beacon. Don’t disappear, don’t have a tantrum, don’t break anything—you may be rewarded with something from the museum’s gift shop. I grew up in Pittsburgh, where we had…

From Italy to Rochester, Looking for the Meaning of Play

From Italy to Rochester, Looking for the Meaning of Play

In November 2015, I came from my home in Turin, Italy, to spend a month at The Strong museum working on my research project, “The Meaning of Toys: Creating and Conveying Knowledge through Playful Artifacts.” I was honored to be granted a  Strong Research Fellowship that financed the first half of my stay.

Playmobil Play Sets

Playmobil Play Sets

In my previous blog titled I’d Like to Thank All the Little People, I described the profound impact that Fisher-Price’s Play Family had on my preschool years in the early 1970s. What I could not have realized during those formative years is that, almost 4,000 miles away in Zirndorf, Germany, another type of play set—Playmobil—was…

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Girl Gamers

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Girl Gamers

Recently, debates about women and video games have been making the rounds. The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the Colbert Report, for instance, have drawn attention to what it can be like for women in gaming communities. They explain that women face a lot of pushback and find themselves viewed as unwelcome visitors in…

Sid Sackson: Game Player and Designer

Sid Sackson: Game Player and Designer

The Strong not only collects playthings, but also acquires significant material related to the invention, manufacture, and use of those playthings. One of the museum’s treasures is the collection of games, game prototypes, and archives from noted American game inventor and historian, Sid Sackson. Sackson (1920–2002) is revered among inventors, collectors, and serious players for…

Domestic Hobbies: The Fight for Community in the Face of Isolation and Injustice

Domestic Hobbies: The Fight for Community in the Face of Isolation and Injustice

Domestic hobbies scratch the play itch—the need for creative expression and for losing yourself in the flow of an activity. In my previous blog, I addressed the therapeutic nature of crafting and the calm that it brings to its practitioners. Creative pursuits can also meet the need for community, for comfort and companionship for the…

Game Night!

Game Night!

It’s game night and my friends are gathered in my dining room. Four of them are face-down in a plateful of whipped cream, with their hands tied behind their backs, desperately trying to find snack-size candy bars hidden underneath. The rest of the group are laughing raucously, cheering their partners on. The goal of the…