If you haven’t spent the last week in a galaxy far, far away, you have probably heard that on November 15, Star Wars action figures joined the 50 other august toys honored in the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong. It seems like big honors for such itty bitty, 3.75-inch toys, but these figures demonstrate the iconic stature, longevity, and creative play essential to earning Hall of Fame status.
Classic Toys of the National Toy Hall of Fame
Watching the Emmy Awards recently turned my thoughts to the upcoming 2012 induction of new toys into the National Toy Hall of Fame on November 15. Although our induction ceremony doesn’t boast television stars, glittery evening gowns, or tearful acceptance speeches, it nevertheless offers suspense leading up to bestowing a significant honor on two (or sometimes three) deserving winners. No one goes away with an impressive trophy for their mantel, but classic toys receive their moment in the spotlight.
Among my childhood toys, I cherished none more than my teddy bear. According to the family story, when I was six months old, my mother and grandfather were shopping with me in a department store. As we walked past a display of teddy bears, my mother picked one up and showed it to me. “Look Megan,” my mother said sweetly. With as much fascination as a baby could muster, my wide-eyed awe let her know that I’d fallen under the spell of the fluffy plush toy. Of course, my mother didn’t have the heart to put it back on the shelf. Sale made; favorite toy acquired.
When I wrote my first blog for The Strong more than a year ago, I talked about nostalgia—so it seems appropriate that I should come full circle and take some time to reflect back on my time at the museum before heading off to a new job in a new city. I’ve learned a great deal in the last two years. I can safely handle artifacts and identify French fashion doll manufacturers.
Consider a paradox: people who play the fastest devote great lengths of time to doing so. This presents a conundrum only slightly less challenging than a Rubik’s Cube—unless you’re the current world record holder, who solved the puzzling polyhedron in less than six seconds. If you asked champion Feliks Zemdegs, he’d probably say the goal of playing quickly is achieved slowly.
…except when it comes to toys. We spend a lot of time talking about the way the media portrays women—how images of svelte, scantily-clad models on New York City’s sky-high billboards affect us mere mortals below, for instance. The struggle with body image and beauty standards begins at a very young age for girls, often with toys like Barbie, the beautiful doll who stares mockingly up at everyone unfortunate enough to be made of something other than flawless plastic.
In case you missed the media blitz, on November 10, the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong announced its 2011 inductees: the dollhouse, Hot Wheels, and the blanket. If you read my early November blog, you know that I thought the puppet, one of the 12 finalists for this year’s induction, was a shoo-in—just goes to show you that even insiders cannot always guess well!
I grew up in a world without LEGO minifigures. I received my first set of LEGO bricks as a Christmas gift in 1973—a wide, white box full of flat, green “grass” pieces, primary-colored bricks, and potential. I constructed houses with doors and windows that opened and closed. I built cars, both the ones illustrated on the box and monstrous contraptions not unlike modern Humvees. And when I needed people, I made them. So did every other kid I knew.
Some folks have reported visions of sugarplums recently—I’ve worked so closely with museum artifacts that I’m hearing their voices. Call me the Toy Whisperer or just plain loopy, but I listen when the museum’s toys and games talk about their New Year’s resolutions. The artifacts have some ambitious goals for 2012, but this doesn’t surprise me at all—they were busy last year, too.