The Strong Online Collections Largest Among History Museums

The Strong News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 585-263-2700

April 24, 2012

For Immediate Release

Contact: Susan Trien, 585-410-6359,
Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365,

The Strong Online Collections
Now Largest Among History Museums

The Strong®, home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls, games, books, photographs, documents, and other historical materials related to play, now offers more than 40,000 artifacts online (—making it one of the largest online collections available among history museums anywhere.

Explore a vast array of fascinating historic playthings, such as the Thomas Edison Singing Doll (1890–1900), one of the first talking dolls ever produced; The Commanders of Our Forces (1863), a variation on the classic game of Authors from the time of the Civil War; and a Jonah and the Whale mechanical bank (1910), one of only four biblical stories ever depicted in mechanical banks. Learn the stories behind toys that have stood the test of time, such as Mr. Potato Head, Lionel Trains, building blocks, and other iconic toys in the museum’s National Toy Hall of Fame. Roam through a sizable collection of electronic games including popular video arcade games and contemporary PC and role-playing games.

“While thousands of artifacts are on view in the National Museum of Play at The Strong at any one time,” says Chris Bensch, vice president for collections, “tens of thousands more are now viewable online, allowing free access to a large portion of the museum’s world-renowned collections. Posting artifacts online allows us to share more than we can ever place on display, especially fragile and light sensitive objects. And it allows our insights about toys and play to reach a global audience.”

How does one select objects to digitize when you are home to literally hundreds of thousands of artifacts related to play? Says Bensch, “We began taking digital images of our collections in 2000 and have captured a digital image of every new acquisition since then. We’re currently completing a two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)  that has helped the museum preserve the heritage of play. During that time, 15,000 of our most significant pre-1930s playthings were placed online.”

Major online search categories are Dolls, Games, Toys, and More. Bensch says the More category is especially fun to explore; particularly the section called People at Play, where you can see generational changes in fads and fashions, leisure-time activities, holiday celebrations, and other play-related pursuits through the decades. 

Each object online features a documentary photograph and basic factual information including the item’s maker, material, title, place of origin, and date. For many items, in-depth information may also be provided, such as historical context or specific significance.  Artifact donations are recognized with a credit line, if the donor so wishes. Objects are posted in the order in which they have been acquired with the newest additions to the collection always appearing first.

The Strong is a highly interactive, collections-based educational institution devoted to the study and exploration of play. It carries out this mission through five programmatic arms called “Play Partners.” These are the National Museum of Play, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, and the American Journal of Play. Independent and not-for-profit, The Strong is situated in Rochester, New York, where it houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play. These enable a multifaceted array of research, exhibition, and other interpretive activities that serve a diverse audience of adults, families, children, students, teachers, scholars, collectors, and others around the globe. Each Strong Play Partner provides a unique framework through which The Strong develops, organizes, and delivers educational services.