When I Was a Kid: Adult Memories of Play

When I Was a Kid: Adult Memories of Play

One of the great pleasures of working at The Strong is that every exhibit features a time portal back to childhood, most of which hold innumerable portals. No sooner does a visitor exclaim, “Oh! I had one of those when I was a kid!,” at the sight of Teddy Ruxpin before she is confronted by…

“True Hollywood” Toy Stories: Tales of the Games and Toys We Love

"True Hollywood” Toy Stories: Tales of the Games and Toys We Love

When I was an undergraduate, I was obsessed with the television program E! True Hollywood Story. Each week, I took a salacious rollercoaster ride through the ups and downs of a celebrity’s life. Right before each commercial break, the narrator assured me that either the star was about to be saved from his downward spiral…

Barbie Hacks and Mods: On Swapping Voices, Removing Makeup, and Fighting Prejudice

Barbie Hacks and Mods: On Swapping Voices, Removing Makeup, and Fighting Prejudice

Barbie has raised eyebrows since her debut at the 1959 Toy Fair. Modeled after the German Bild Lilli novelty doll, Barbie provided girls a playroom outlet for their dreams and aspirations. Inventor Ruth Handler knew that girls wanted to play at more than being a mother to life-sized baby dolls, but Mattel executives were skeptical….

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…

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…

Old Timey Cures for Cabin Fever: Feathers, Forfeits, and Fortune Telling

Old Timey Cures for Cabin Fever: Feathers, Forfeits, and Fortune Telling

Record low temperatures and un-melting piles of snow kept parents scrambling to entertain house-bound children in the winter of 2015. This winter hasn’t been quite as cold or snowy in Rochester but, just in case the snows return, I’m ready with some practical advice drawn from The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play,…

Domestic Hobbies: The Search for Calm in Life’s Storms

Domestic Hobbies:  The Search for Calm in Life’s Storms

“I knit so I don’t kill people.” You can buy a mug, a tote bag, or a shirt with this phrase emblazoned on it. You can meet a handful of fellow knitters out on the town for World Wide Knit in Public Day or you can share your projects and patterns with the 5.5 million…

YOU and YOU ALONE: The Story of the Choose Your Own Adventure Generation

YOU and YOU ALONE: The Story of the Choose Your Own Adventure Generation

WARNING!!!! Do not read this book straight through from beginning to end! These pages contain many different adventures you can go on…. The adventures you take are a result of your choice. You are responsible because you choose! For 36 years these opening lines have beckoned booklovers and reluctant readers alike to become part of…

Four Dolls, Three Bears, Two Bunnies, and One Plastic Guy: Books about Play Pals

Four Dolls, Three Bears, Two Bunnies, and One Plastic Guy: Books about Play Pals

As Director of Libraries at The Strong, I acquire scholarly books on the study of play for the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Although tracking down weighty academic tomes is quite fulfilling, I would be dishonest if I said that selecting children’s books for the Grada Hopeman Gelser Library didn’t liven up my…

The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

Autumn is upon us, replete with all things paranormal and pumpkin spice. Hollywood once again offers us an opportunity to be terrified for the cost of a movie ticket and large popcorn. Annabelle (2014) isn’t the first “playful” villain that has captured our collective attention: for a half a century, scary toys have come alive…