Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong
The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play is a treasure trove of materials devoted to the intellectual, social, and cultural history of play. The library’s collection of more than 140,000 resources—books, periodicals, comic books, audio-visual materials—include more than 18,000 trade catalogs, the majority of which are focused on the toy, game, and recreation industries.
Allow me to introduce you to an elite group of which I am not a member: serious gamers. Yes, I’ve been known to play the occasional game of Scrabble, and in my youth I devoted a week one summer to playing Monopoly with a cousin. Add in a few random games of Checkers, Parcheesi, and Go Fish, and that about covers it. So when I say “serious gamer,” I’m referring to someone like the extraordinary Sid Sackson.
I’ve always been curious about how things work. I’ve been known to take things apart and put them back together, just to see if I can. Sometimes tools are involved, sometimes not. Over the years, my scientific explorations have taken me inside the workings of telephones, electronics, vacuum cleaners, and toys—especially toys. Looking back, it seems that I spent more time as a child examining how toys were manufactured and how they functioned than I did playing with them.
Simon and Schuster published the first Little Golden Books in 1942. Filled with colorful illustrations and appealing tales, these inexpensive picture books hooked kids across America. Thanks to my cousin’s hand-me-downs, my childhood library contained a copy of the series’ Little Red Riding Hood. I confess, I forgot about this book until I began to work on a new display of Little Golden Books for Reading Adventureland at the National Museum of Play at The Strong.
Stroll into nearly any home, school, grocery store, or gas station and, if you look around, you’ll begin to notice books everywhere. I say “if you look” because books have become so commonplace that they barely register in the mind’s eye. Through fiction or fact, verse or prose, art or photography, books exist to spark your interest, ignite your imagination, and propel you on a journey of the mind.