The Strong Receives IMLS Grant

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

September 13, 2013

For Immediate Release

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

The Strong® Receives Museums for America

Grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services

ROCHESTER, New York—The Strong has received a grant of $149,903 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Museums for America Program to assist the ongoing transformation of The Strong’s second floor into an artifact-dense, interactive, interpretive exhibit titled America at Play. The Strong is one of 186 museums across the nation to be awarded the IMLS grant out of 707 that applied for funding.

Rich in objects from The Strong’s world-renowned collections, and complemented by hands-on activities, America at Play features four complementary, thematic zones that will tell the story of the way that play has changed, stayed the same, and affects us all—adults and children alike. The exhibit represents the first-ever historical overview of three centuries of play in America.

The IMLS funding will be applied toward the fabrication and installation of a 4,000-square-foot figurative play zone that focuses on the history and evolution of play through pretend figures that repesent living creatures. The Strong’s collection of dolls, stuffed animals, toy soldiers, action figures, and other figural playthings is the largest diversified collection of such artifacts in a public institution in the United States, showcasing not only how toys have changed over time, but also how these changes have reflected and influenced American culture in general. Among the rare artifacts on view will be a doll from England dating from 1690, the first talking doll (created by Thomas Edison), a Barbie doll prototype, the earliest teddy bears inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 hunting expedition, and historic play sets including early Noah’s Arks. Interactive components to engage younger guests will include an oversized walk-in dollhouse and an animal hospital with props for role-play.  

According to G. Rollie Adams, president and CEO of The Strong, “The America at Play project represents years of planning, research, and evaluation by The Strong concerning ways to best utilize its unparalleled collections of play-related artifacts to provide deeper learning experiences for those encountering them, including museum guests, students, educators, researchers, and scholars.”      

The first America at Play zone, eGameRevolution, is a 5,000-square-foot interactive exhibit that opened to the public November 2010. Guests literally play their way through the history of video games—from the dawn of Pong to today’s Xbox 360—and learn how video games have changed the way we play, learn, and relate to each other. Game Time!—the second America at Play zone—opened in April 2013. The exhibit invites guests to move like a piece on a giant game board through 300 years of games, puzzles, and public amusements. The third America at Play zone on figurative play is expected to open in November 2014 and will focus on dolls, stuffed animals, toy soldiers, and action figures. The final phase of America at Play will focus on toy vehicles and construction toys. It is scheduled for completion in 2015. Each zone can stand alone as a “destination” in the museum; but, taken together, the four zones will illuminate changes and continuities in American play over three centuries.

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.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. IMLS grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive.