Sugar Buzz Your Sweetie

Sugar Buzz Your Sweetie

Is there a box of chocolates in your Valentine’s Day plans? If you’re going to give (or are expecting to receive) candy as a token of love, you’re part of a romantic tradition that began more than a century ago. In the 1890s, candy makers finally glommed onto Valentine’s Day as an occasion to promote…

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Have a Horrid Valentine’s Day

Have a Horrid Valentine's Day

What does Valentine’s Day make you think of? Boxes of chocolates? Bouquets of roses? Pledges of undying love? Sure, those are all part of the most romantic holiday on the calendar. On the other hand, from the 1840s into the early twentieth century, Valentine’s Day was also THE occasion to send insulting and downright nasty…

Hurray for Inventors!

Hurray for Inventors!

Toy and game inventors deserve their time in the spotlight, according to the annual TAGIE (Toy and Game Inventors Expo) Awards. Bestselling books and hit songs earn authors and singers publicity as well as financial rewards. But create a million-selling toy or game and practically no one knows your name. The TAGIE Awards honor the…

Best in Class: Game Boy, Big Wheel, and the Ball

Best in Class: Game Boy, Big Wheel, and the Ball

The excitement builds around the museum every autumn as we lead up to the induction of new toys into the National Toy Hall of Fame. This year, people from all over the country sent us hundreds of toy nominations, each one making the case that their favorite toy should earn a place of honor among…

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Halloween Hoopla

Halloween Hoopla

I’ve got my Halloween candy ready for the trick-or-treaters and a plan for how I’m going to decorate my front door with construction paper bats, but it was still a bit of a surprise to arrive at the museum this morning and find half my colleagues dressed (tastefully, of course) for Halloween. I should have…

Showing Our Stuff

Showing Our Stuff

You might not think of museum curators as showoffs, but we are.  Personally, I love speaking in public and appearing on TV. However, the type of showing off that curators like best is the kind that involves sharing our collections with the world. Sometimes we show off our collections in museum exhibits or at educational…

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Raggedy Ann Makes Her Move

Raggedy Ann Makes Her Move

It was a sunny August day when the Strong curators rolled into the little town of Arcola, Illinois. Dominated by its towering grain elevator and surrounded by endless fields of corn and soy beans, Arcola is the birthplace of Johnny Gruelle, the artist and author best known for creating Raggedy Ann & Raggedy Andy. Our…

Research on Roller Coasters

Research on Roller Coasters

Sometimes, when you work as a curator at the National Museum of Play, you need to put down the scholarly books about play and head out to do a little hands-on research. There’s nothing like ratcheting up the first steep incline of a roller coaster and then screaming down the drop on the other side to prove what’s fun about amusement parks.

Building an Empire

Building an Empire

Donald Trump never knew how close he came to competing with me-and not because I wanted to play a boss on reality TV. No, the truth is that, as a kid, I dreamed of making it big in the world of high-profile architecture and real estate development. If things had worked out differently, I might…

The Stick Stands Out

The Stick Stands Out

Excitement was building at the start of November as we prepared to induct three new toys-the baby doll, the skateboard, and the stick-into the National Toy Hall of Fame. I’d studied up on the toys’ histories, gathered my anecdotes, and felt prepared to explain to anyone who asked the all compelling reasons why they should…