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 a treasure trove of museums to frequent. My favorite was the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, whose permanent exhibitions included a hall of minerals and gemstones, a replica of an Egyptian tomb, and intricate wildlife dioramas.  But the biggest draw to the museum was the Dinosaur Hall, which contained specimens from one of the world’s best dinosaur fossil skeletons collections. Everyone—from toddlers to octogenarians—loved to marvel at the massive, reconstructed dinosaur skeletons and the illustrated backdrops. I could have spent hours staring at the teeth of the Tyrannosaurus rex skull or counting the plates on the back of the Stegosaurus ungulatus. Luckily for me, I had a library card to check out kids’ books on paleontology, and parents who were willing to spend a few dollars on a plastic dinosaur figurine each time we left the museum. By kindergarten, I had all but abandoned my Fisher-Price kitchen set and appropriated my play shopping cart as a basket to hold my sizeable dinosaur collection.

Larami Corp. catalog, 1987, courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.“Dinosaur” comes from the Greek deinos sauros meaning “terrible lizard.” However, in the early 1990s, dinosaurs were anything but terrible. These creatures appeared on television programs as well as the big screen, and companies were eager to produce licensed tie-in toys and games.

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…

When the Old Becomes New—Timeless Toy Designs

When the Old Becomes New—Timeless Toy Designs

“Hey! I had one of those growing up!” is a frequent statement we hear from guests roaming through The Strong. With such a large and diverse collection on display, everyone young and old can discover personal treasures behind the glass cases. The nostalgia of smiling childhood memories brings joy, as toy companies have discovered. Although…

Finding Race and Play at The Strong

Finding Race and Play at The Strong

The Strong’s research fellowship program not only provides an opportunity for scholars to view rare material in the museum’s collection and archives, but it also expands the potential for the study of play in academia. Being surrounded by the artifacts of play with which we all have experiential knowledge helped me realize the importance of…

Batman v Superman: Batman Wins

Batman v Superman: Batman Wins

Okay, I’ll confess that I haven’t actually seen the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But in my personal comparison of the two iconic superheroes, Batman wins almost every time. I should explain that I grew up in the 1960s and hadn’t really paid much attention to superheroes until 1966 rolled around. Superman, who…