A less than enthusiastic student during my grade school career, there were very few days I actually looked forward to. The most anticipated being—of course—the last day of school. But somewhere in between, there was parachute day in gym class, StarLab day (a giant inflatable planetarium that traveled to area schools, allowing students to crawl through a short, dark tunnel to reach a twinkling sky within), and the occasional field trip. But the thing I looked forward most wasn’t just […]
Looking for Labor, Listening to the Archive
The artist and photographer Taryn Simon once opened an exhibit with a now-widespread observation: “Archives exist because there’s something that can’t necessarily be articulated. Something is said in the gaps between all the information.” Simon gets at something important here, I think. We tend to think of the gaps in archives as, at best, markers of where we need to “fill in” the historical record in the pursuit of some absolute, final body of total knowledge. But gaps can also […]
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Heroines Just as Interesting as Heroes
The video game company Her Interactive adopted the slogan “For Girls Who Aren’t Afraid of a Mouse.” The firm’s fan letters and focus group collections informed my research on how video games are a technological construction of human expression. Her Interactive was a company focused on creating games based on the reception they received from their audience—girl gamers. They wanted to make video games based on the Nancy Drew series of novels more story driven so that girls would be […]
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The Billiken Doll’s Racist History
My current book project looks at Orientalism in American toy culture at the turn from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. Its primary objects of analysis are Japanese dolls, imports from Japan that were often imagined as Japanese American immigrants by the children who played with them. However, in researching this topic, I soon came upon another, much stranger artifact of interest: a toy called the Billiken doll. At first, this doll struck me as profoundly bizarre. It […]
Exploring Military Cards and Comics
During and following World War II, children across the United States used their pocket money to collect trading cards that depicted the activities of the U.S. military in a variety of times and places, both current conflicts such as the Pacific Theater in World War II or the Korean War of 1950–1953, and historical ones, such as the Mexican-American War and the American Revolutionary War. Although many cards showed lurid and violent conflict, much of this kind of action was […]
Simulation, Photography, and Flâneurie In Video Games
The once pejorative term “walking simulator” was often deployed to single out video games that bucked the trend of delivering a fast-paced, action-packed, adrenaline-pumping experience with clear-cut rules and goals and instead opted for making video games organized by a thin set of rules and optional tasks in favor of open-ended wandering and exploration. These days, walking simulators show promise as they rise in popularity, signaling an important shift in interest among developers and gamers alike toward nuance, discovery, and […]
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Parading Through History
“I love a parade.”
Or at least that’s what the rousing chorus of Harry Richman’s 1932 song proudly boasts.
Barbara Streisand shares similar enthusiasm in the popular 1964 musical (and 1968 film adaptation) Funny Girl while belting out the now iconic song “Don’t Rain on My Parade”. The song has continued to experience popularity in the zeitgeist in the decades since, with a particularly memorable (albeit brief) rendition by Robin Williams in the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire.
So, what makes parades so popular? […]
Intern Experience: Processing Dime Store and Action Figures
For three months during the summer of 2021, I had the privilege to work as an intern for the Collections team at The Strong museum. My primary project focused on researching and cataloging action and toy figures ranging from the 1970s to the 2000s. At the start of my internship, I also cataloged a collection consisting of 1940s cast iron lead figures from manufacturers such as Barclay, Auburn Rubber Company, and Manoil Mfg, Company. Highlights included The Happy Farm […]
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Out with the Old and in with the… Older?
“Everything comes back into style if you wait long enough.”
The first time I heard this phrase was in my early teens from my mother. At the time, I was obsessed with flared jeans, a trend directly inspired by bell bottoms of the 1960s. Upon hearing my mom’s words, I—like most teens—was absolutely certain she had no idea what she was talking about but kept that thought to myself. Now as an adult, I’ve come to that startling realization many of […]
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