In addition to world-class collections of toys, dolls, and games, the National Museum of Play® at The Strong also holds a broad range other important play-related collections. Major categories include, but are not limited to, souvenirs and postcards, sheet music, objects based on popular and literary characters, and examples of home crafts and hobbies dating back to the 19th century.
Berenstain Bears Collection
Since the 1960s, Stan and Jan Berenstain's popular children's book series, The Berenstain Bears, has sold millions of copies and taught kids numerous lessons about family and everyday life. With more than 300 titles in print, the series stands as one of the most successful in the history of children's publishing. The Berenstain Bears have also starred in three animated television series, five NBC holiday specials, and several examples of edutainment software. Thanks to a generous donation from the Berenstain family, the more than 450 Berenstain Bears objects in the museum’s collection represent the full range of licensed Bears products through the years.
See also the Stan and Jan Berenstain Archive of Cartoon Art in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play.
Donald Duck Collection
While he may not match Mickey Mouse in popularity, Donald Duck has been around since 1934 and has exhibited enduring appeal in the wide array of products—toys, games, clothing, household accessories, and food items—that have used his iconic image. The museum’s collection includes some 450 examples of Donald’s appearance in artifacts of American popular culture over time.
Home Crafts and Hobbies Collection
Leisure activities take numerous forms. Many children and adults turn to home crafts and similar hobbies and creative endeavors to entertain and express themselves. The museum holds more than 2,000 objects representing such crafts, hobbies, and related leisure activities by both children and adults. These artifacts include everything from 19th-century pieced quilts and carved whimsies to examples of the latest craft projects and kits.
See also “Ever the Crafty One.”
Philip E. Orbanes Collection
This collection of more than 500 items includes the world’s most comprehensive collection of classic Monopoly games. Philip E. Orbanes, who assembled the collection, led research and development teams at Parker Brothers for more than a decade and is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the company and on Monopoly. The collection includes every mass-produced edition of authentic Monopoly from the first home-produced versions by Charles Darrow to special Millennia editions from the year 2000. Also included are handmade games such as the famous Roy Stryker oilcloth Landlords’s Game, every Parker-made Mah-Jongg set and other famous first editions such as Parker’s 1949 Clue, plus game and toy prototypes from Orbanes’s career at Ideal and his own company, Gamescience.
See also the Philip E. Orbanes Papers in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play.
Raggedy Ann and Andy Collection
Comic strip artist and graphic illustrator Johnny B. Gruelle created Raggedy Ann Stories for the P. F. Volland publishing company in 1918. Three years later Gruelle followed with Raggedy Andy stories, and soon Volland issued the dolls as tie-ins to its books. Dolls and books alike have remained popular and in production ever since. The Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum of Arcola, Illinois, donated many of the more than 1,400 Raggedy Ann and Andy items in this collection. It illustrates some of the hundreds of products—furniture, clothing, Halloween costumes, games, records, food products, and holiday decorations—that have employed Raggedy Ann and Andy’s images for almost a century.
Santa Claus Collection
Santa Claus has been a part of American popular culture for almost 200 years. Nineteenth-century poems like “’Twas the Night before Christmas” (1844)—a copy of which in the hand of Clement Moore resides in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play—and paintings like Thomas Nast’s “A Jolly Good Fellow” (1874)—which is part of this collection—made a fat, jolly, gift-giving Santa central to many Americans’ holiday traditions. His highly recognizable image has also long been a staple in American advertising. The more than 1,000 items illustrating or in the shape of Santa Claus in this collection include numerous Christmas decorations but extends to everything from ads to yo-yos.
Sheet Music Collection
Sheet music preceded the Victrola and radio in making popular music accessible to the public. Before these innovations, the piano and sheet music brought the latest popular songs to families, groups of friends, and even whole neighborhoods. The museum holds more than 2,000 pieces of sheet music ranging from simply designed mid-19th century pieces to ones bearing fancy chromolithographed covers of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The collection is highly representative of American popular culture up to the present. Modern examples range from Disney movie themes to contemporary rock and roll.
Souvenir and Postcard Collection
The National Museum of Play has more than 1,500 souvenirs of all types and nearly 20,000 postcards. The souvenirs range from paperweights etched for expositions to pennants marked for sports teams. There are miniature buildings, shot glasses, mementos from amusement parks, and more. Postcards may be souvenirs too—many of them are marked as such—or brief letters home from a far-away locale. Either way, like souvenirs, each may record a significant and personal event in a person’s life.
Iris F. Hollander November Statue of Liberty Collection
Collecting is a significant form of play. Iris November began collecting Statue of Liberty items in 1985 at a fundraising auction. Recalling that she was a first generation American on her mother's side led her to decide to “have a little collection.” That, in turn, led her eventually to found the Statue of Liberty Collectors Club in 1991 and to create this collection of 1,650 Statue of Liberty souvenirs and related products, which she donated to the museum in memory of her mother Celeste Coriene Flaxman. The collection consists chiefly of objects from the early 20th century to the present.
See also “Saluting the Statue of Liberty.”
Today’s fascination with 3-D reality in movies and on television is really nothing new. The human eye sees one thing, the camera records another. This collection includes more than 4,500 stereographs—stereo photographs meant to be viewed through a stereoscope viewer. The collection extends chiefly from the late 19th century through the middle of the 20th. Many of the stereographs record famous views of national monuments, parks, and gravesites. Some are educational series meant to be viewed in sequence. Others are humorous examples meant to provoke a laugh.
Marianne Szymanski Toy Tips Collection
This collection consists of more than 400 examples of toys, games, and dolls targeted largely to the specialty toy market. In addition to containing items not otherwise represented in the museum’s collections, it illustrates one of several avenues through which toys and juvenile products may get tested and reviewed en route to or shortly after reaching the marketplace.