Within the Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play are more than 2,600 linear feet of physical collections, along with ever-expanding digital collections. These include archival materials related to the study of play, artifacts of play, and video and electronic games. Researchers and scholars can search the holdings via the archives catalog.
Using the Archives Catalog
The archives catalog of The Strong contains detailed descriptive information about the archival collections housed in the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. These collections include archival materials related to the study of play, artifacts of play, and video and electronic games. Researchers may search on keywords or browse by Collection, Subject, Name, or Classification.
You can also view a step-by-step guide on how to use the archives catalog and how to request access to archival collections.
The archival collections of The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play chronicle the many facets of play. Among the holdings are personal papers, manuscripts, data, and other materials from play scholars and educators who have significantly advanced knowledge of the role of play in learning and human development and the ways in which it illuminates cultural history.
Significant materials include:
Brian Sutton-Smith Papers, 1878-2015
This collection documents six decades of play-related research, teaching, and writing by Brian Sutton-Smith (1924–2015), one of the foremost play scholars of the last 100 years. His The Ambiguity of Play (1987) stands alongside Johann Huizinga’s Homo Ludens (1938) and Roger Caillois’s Man, Play, and Games (1961) as a touchstone of play theory. For more than half a century, in more than 350 books and articles, Sutton-Smith has led or synthesized the major advancements in play studies. His papers include notes, data, manuscripts, reprints, correspondence, clippings, and some photographs and reflect his interdisciplinary research and writing in psychology, education, and folklore and his teaching at Bowling Green University, Teachers College at Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Doris Bergen Papers, 1972–2014
These papers are a compilation of manuscripts, research notes and drafts, published articles, and primary source materials created or recorded by long-time Miami University professor Doris Bergen over the course of four decades in the educational psychology and early childhood education fields. Also included are conference presentations, raw research data, and correspondence. Original research documents in the materials include written adult memories of childhood play, survey forms completed by parents and teachers about their observations of young children’s humor, and elementary school students’ evaluation forms describing the problem-solving skills involved in projects using the LEGO Logo computer programming language. The collection also holds VHS cassettes of recorded observations of preschool children and special needs children at play in the United States, China, and other countries. The bulk of the collection is dated between 1989 and 2010.
View the finding aid to the Doris Bergen Papers.
Fields of Play Film Series Collection, 1981–1982 and 2010–2012
In the late 1970s, British documentarian Michael Dibb collaborated with Brian Sutton-Smith and other play scholars on a five-program series for the BBC entitled Fields of Play. These documentaries explored play in conjunction with learning, working, sports, gambling, and other aspects of everyday life. The Fields of Play film series collection contains DVDs of the five programs which constitute the series. The programs (Plays of Meaning, Playing the Odds, Work and Play, Playing Ball, and Playing for Real) aired in the U.K. on BBC Two in 1982. Supplementary material compiled by staff at The Strong round out this collection.
Lella Gandini Early Childhood and Children’s Folklore Collection, 1645–2012
An early childhood educator since the mid-1970s, Lella Gandini is the United States Liaison for the Dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Early in her career, she collaborated with Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia, approach in her native northern Italy. Gandini subsequently studied and worked in the United States. She is co-editor of the comprehensive Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood and has written and spoken widely in both countries on children’s learning environments, bedtime rituals, children’s fears, children’s clothing, nursery rhymes, parent-child-teacher relationships, folklore, and other topics. The collection includes examples of her own publications; scores of other works on early childhood education and related topics; and a compilation of research notes, presentations, and other documents used by Gandini throughout her career. Some materials are in English, some are in Italian, and some are in other languages.
Vivian Gussin Paley Papers, 1973–2010
Vivian Gussin Paley is a noted preschool and kindergarten teacher; early childhood education researcher, writer, and lecturer; and advocate for the importance of play for young children. She has documented her work, methods, and beliefs in unique and powerful fashion through 13 widely read and influential books, most of which she wrote while teaching at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. This collection includes autographed copies of Paley’s books (in English and in other languages); reviews of her books; reviews by Paley of other books; articles by and about her; speeches; some correspondence; numerous clippings; items related to conferences, workshops, and symposia; and audio-visual materials related to presentations.
Explore even more collections related to the study of play in the archives catalog.
Archival Collections Related to Artifacts of Play
The Strong collects and preserves a broad range of play-related materials that include marketing, advertising, and other promotional and informational materials about toys and games; design documents; business records; works of art; and other materials that provide unique windows into the many facets of play, its role in learning and human development, and the ways in which it illuminates cultural history.
Significant materials include:
Bonnie Erickson Papers, 1971–2017
Bonnie Erickson is an American artist, inventor, and designer. She is best known for creating the iconic Muppet characters Miss Piggy, Statler, and Waldorf, as well as professional sports league mascots, including Phillie Phanatic (MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies) and Youppi! (currently with the NHL’s Montréal Canadiens). The Bonnie Erickson papers contain materials from 1971 through 2017, with the bulk of the papers dated between 1978 and 1999. This collection holds design concepts and illustrations for licensed products (including goods featuring Sesame Street, Jim Henson’s Muppets, and Disney characters), prototype sketches, style guides, product tear sheets, catalog pages, publicity, notes, and other materials.
Flora Gill Jacobs Papers, 1864–2006
Flora Gill Jacobs (1918–2006) was an international authority on dollhouses and miniatures; she spent nearly 60 years acquiring, researching, renovating, and furnishing miniature dwellings. Jacobs, a serious collector, operated the Washington Dolls’ House and Toy Museum in Georgetown from 1975 through 2004. Her museum (along with her publications) has been credited with increasing interest in dollhouse collecting in the United States in the second half of the 20th century. The collection includes two linear feet of personal papers related to dollhouses and the Washington Dolls’ House and Toy Museum as well as approximately 300 international reference books, dollhouse and toy manufacturer trade catalogs, 19th-century periodicals, children’s books, and scrapbooks. The materials—on the topics of dollhouses, play, dolls, toys, crafting miniatures, and more—span from the mid-19th century through the 2000s. The bulk of the collection is in English, while some of these items are in French, German, Italian, and Japanese.
View the finding aid to the Flora Gill Jacobs Papers.
Gruelle Family Collection, 1888-2008
This collection documents the development of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls by their creator, popular early-20th-century children’s illustrator Johnny Gruelle (1880–1938). The bulk of the collection dates from the first half of the 1900s and consists of manuscripts, graphic materials, publications, correspondence, photographs, and miscellaneous items related to the Gruelle family. Personal materials of Gruelle family members Johnny Gruelle, Myrtle Gruelle, Worth Gruelle, Suzanne Gruelle, Justin Gruelle, and Joni Gruelle Wannamaker are also included.
GUND, Inc. Records, 1912–2002
The GUND Manufacturing Company, founded in 1898 by Adolph Gund, supplied the nation’s growing market for soft toys, including teddy bears, mechanical toys, plush animals, cloth dolls, and puppets. GUND’s success benefited from several innovations in technology and marketing. This collection contains historic archival materials from GUND, Inc. Document types include legal papers, financial ledgers, photographs, toy patterns, advertising materials, artwork, scrapbooks, company history, and more. A sizeable portion of this collection covers marketing and publicity. Most of the materials are dated between 1942 and 1969 and also from 1984 to 1998.
View the finding aid to the GUND, Inc. Records.
Philip E. Orbanes Papers, 1905–2012
Philip E. Orbanes spent more than a decade leading research and development teams at Parker Brothers and is widely recognized as the foremost authority on Monopoly and Parker Brothers. The collection contains personal and business records that chronicle Orbanes’s 30-year career at Parker Brothers, Ideal, and his own company, Gamescience. Also included are materials related to his numerous connections in the game industry, such as Sid Sackson, along with rare documents from George Parker and his two brothers.
Sid Sackson Collection, 1867–2000
This collection represents essentially the complete professional archive of game designer, collector, consultant, and author Sid Sackson (1920–2002), who created more than 500 games. Most notable among the 50 or so he brought to market are Acquire, Can't Stop, Sleuth, Focus, Bazaar, Metropolis, Monad, Take Five, and Venture. Sackson meticulously documented his game design processes, and the collection includes his diaries plus game descriptions and rules, writings, newspaper and magazine clippings, correspondence, some photographs, and miscellaneous books, periodicals, and trade catalogs. The bulk of this collection covers the period between 1960 and 1995.
Spin Master Ltd. Records, 1994–2017
The Spin Master Ltd. records are a compilation of digital files documenting the design process and marketing phases of two iconic Spin Master toy lines, Earth Buddy and Zoomer. Digital images include prototypes, graphics, toy testing snapshots, packaging examples, in-store displays, and more. Videos in this collection showcase toy demonstrations, product commercials, interviews, and instructional recordings. Also incorporated in this collection are product articles and reviews, awards, and commemorative historical information on Spin Master’s 20th anniversary. The bulk of the materials are from 1994 and 2013–2016.
Stan and Jan Berenstain Papers, 1949–2006
The Stan and Jan Berenstain papers provide a unique glimpse of mid-to-late-20th-century family life in America as seen through the pop-culture lens of syndicated comic strips, monthly comic series, and humorous books. Stanley (1923–2005) and Janice (1923–2012) Berenstain met in 1941 and produced a prodigious quantity of cartoon art over their long careers. The collection begins with the Berenstains’ earliest work in the late 1940s and continues through their mid-1950s syndicated comic strip Sister and their It’s All in the Family cartoon series, which ran in several magazines between 1956 and 1988. Included are rough draft copies through finished drawings, some with color overlays returned by publishers. In addition, there are individual cartoons, store advertisements, other promotional materials, and rough and finished drawings for nearly all of the couple’s approximately 30 pre-Bear book projects. The archive also includes early examples of Berenstain Bears drawings and animation cells from 1980s-era Berenstain Bears television specials.
Women in Toys (WIT) Collection, 1963–2017
In 2016, Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WIT)—a leading global professional women’s organization dedicated to providing its members with a collaborative, supportive environment and a networking foundation to help them create solid business alliances—launched the WIT Collection at The Strong. This collection of objects, papers, and other materials helps document, preserve, and make accessible the many ground-breaking contributions women inventors, designers, manufacturers, marketers, and newsmakers have made to the toy industry. The growing collection includes such items as sketches and drawings, notebooks, correspondence, research notes, prototypes, production samples, and digital assets from WIT emeritus members that will help advance general understanding and research on the toy development process in creating the best play experiences for children of all ages.
Explore even more collections related to artifacts of play in the archives catalog.
Archival Collections Related to Video and Other Electronic Games
The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play houses important archival materials that chronicle the development of electronic and video games. These materials, which shed light on the impact electronic and video games have had on American culture, have been gathered, preserved, studied, and interpreted through the work of the museum’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games. Included in the collection are personal papers, design documents, business records, and other unpublished materials that document the history of video games and other electronic games and the ways in which they affect how people play, learn, and connect with each other, including across boundaries of culture and geography. Materials in the archives may also correspond with objects in the museum collections; be sure to also check the Online Collections page for more information.
Significant materials include:
Atari Coin-Op Division Corporate Records, 1969–2002
Atari pioneered the arcade video game and helped launch the video game revolution with the introduction of Pong, the Home Pong console, and the Atari 2600 during the 1970s. As Atari Inc. (1972–1984) and later as Atari Games (1984–1999), the companies produced iconic arcade video games and pinball machines such as Pong, Breakout, Asteroids, Superman pinball, Missile Command, Star Wars, Gauntlet, and Primal Rage. The collection encompasses a wide array of historical materials, including more than 3,000 pieces of original concept and final arcade cabinet artwork, hand-drawn assembly design sketches, story boards, photographs, and print advertising proofs; hundreds of original art kits and production films for Atari arcade video game cabinets; videos of game demos, television commercials, industry show presentations, focus groups, and company celebrations; arcade game source code; and promotional materials. Also included are technical documentation chronicling the production of virtually every Atari coin-operated game from 1972 to 1999; extensive corporate records documenting game brainstorming sessions, industry and market research, and player game evaluations; as well as company correspondence, newsletters, and technical documentation.
Bally-Midway-Williams Records, 1933–2018
American coin-operated game companies Bally, Midway, and Williams helped lay the foundation for modern pinball with titles such as Ballyhoo, Balls-a-Poppin, Space Mission, High Speed, The Addams Family, Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure, Medieval Madness, and Revenge From Mars. This assemblage of tens of thousands of pages of documentation spans the rise of pin games in the 1930s through the shutdown of Williams’s pinball division at the end of the century. This extensive collection encompasses a wide variety of historical materials related to the design, engineering, and manufacture of pinball machines, including thousands of engineering drawings, wiring diagrams, play test documentation, playfield sketches, memos, and notes for Williams pinball machines; hundreds of original parts lists and bills of materials beginning with Bally’s 1933 Rocket pin game; and engineering log books from programmers and software engineers such as Noah Falstein, Ed Suchoki, and Bill Pfutzenreuter.
Brian Fargo Papers, 1981–2012
Brian Fargo founded and led Interplay, one of the most important computer game companies of the 1980s and 1990s. The company developed and published numerous key titles such as The Bard’s Tale, Battle Chess, Mindbender, Neuromancer, Fallout, and Baldur’s Gate. This collection of materials, donated by Fargo, documents development work on many of the Interplay’s key games and provides a record of Fargo’s work as founder and CEO.
View the finding aid to the Brian Fargo Papers.
Brøderbund Software, Inc. Collection, 1979–2002
In the 1980s and 1990s, Brøderbund was one of the leading producers and distributors of games for the home computer with titles such as Lode Runner, Prince of Persia, Myst, SimCity, and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? The company also released many best-selling consumer software titles such as Family Tree Maker, Print Shop, Kid Pix, and the pioneering Living Books line. This collection, donated by company founder Doug Carlston, includes extensive corporate records detailing Brøderbund’s operations from its inception in 1979 to its eventual acquisition by The Learning Company in 1997. Among these are strategic and other long-term planning documents, market research, meeting notes, financial statements, correspondence, catalogs, news clippings, photographs, and other materials that reveal the company’s domestic and international operations. Doug Carlston also served as president and chairman of the Software Publishers Association, and materials in the collection document that work and offer further insight into the growth of the software industry.
Carol Shaw papers, 1960-2017
The first widely recognized female video game designer and programmer Carol Shaw is best known for the popular game River Raid, which sold more than one million copies. The materials in this collection document Shaw’s work for Atari, Inc. and Activision in the 1970s and 1980s, including her 1978 unreleased game Polo—possibly the first console video game designed and programmed by a woman. Archival materials include printed source code for 11 games and applications, such as Video Checkers, Super Breakout, River Raid, and Polo, as well as design documents, notes, sketches, and printouts of reference materials for an Atari calculator program, Polo, Checkers, and 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe.
View the finding aid to the Carol Shaw Papers.
Cort and Barbara Allen Atari Packaging Design Collection, 1976–1984
Atari launched the home video game revolution with Home Pong and the Atari Video Computer System. This collection of more than 2,000 drawings, design plans, mock-ups, proofs, drafts of manual scripts, notes, and unused packaging provides a record of the design and production of packaging and manuals for dozens of Atari home console, computer, and handheld games. Among the materials are artist Cliff Spohn’s original box artwork for Atari’s 1977 Video Computer System launch title Surround, concept package artwork for an unreleased Kee Games version of the Atari 2600, and PAL (Phase Alternating Line) region and French language materials. The bulk of the documentation relates to games created from the late 1970s through the early 1980s.
Dan Bunten (Dani Bunten Berry) Papers, 1949–2012
One of the most important game programmers during the era of personal computer development, Dani Bunten Berry (1949–1998) pioneered multiplayer games. Wheeler Dealers became one of the first boxed computer games; her landmark multiplayer game M.U.L.E. helped inspire future generations of multiplayer game developers; and Modem Wars became the first game to take advantage of modems for game play. Other Bunten games included Robot Rascals, Heart of Africa, Cartels & Cutthroats, Cyber Masters, and Computer Quarterback. The Bunten papers contain business records of the Ozark Softscape company, game concept documents and descriptions, press clippings, personal documents, and photographs.
Gerald A. (“Jerry”) Lawson Papers, 1967–1994
Pioneering African-American engineer Jerry Lawson (1940–2011) helped revolutionize the video game industry through his design of the Fairchild Channel F, the first video game system to use interchangeable cartridges. An early member of the Homebrew Computer Club, Lawson went on to found Video Soft, Inc. in 1980. This collection includes three generations of Fairchild Channel F prototype Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), a Fairchild Channel F, and a Channel F System II owned by Lawson. Also included are more than two dozen games, including Channel F and Video Soft prototype cartridges; a game originally produced for the first video game-themed television show, TV Powww!; a copy of the rare Video Soft Color Bar Generator utility cartridge; design documents on the Channel F (including a blueprint of the Channel F console case); and other design documents and business records from Video Soft.
Her Interactive, Inc. Collection, 1996–2012
Her Interactive occupies an important place in computer game history for having challenged gender disparity in the predominately male-dominated industry. The collection includes design notes, press releases, testing and focus group documents, company profiles, and correspondence that not only document the history of Her Interactive but also offer critical insight into female experiences and attitudes towards electronic gaming. Among games produced by Her Interactive are Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger, Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen, and others from the company’s signature series.
Joel Billings’ Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI) Papers, 1976–2001
Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI) was the leading developer of war games and other computer simulations in the 1980s and early 1990s. The company’s pioneering first game, Computer Bismarck, helped make military simulations a leading segment of the early computer game market. SSI also published sports, finance, and fantasy games, including the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons titles licensed from TSR, and featured some of the era’s most important developers, including Dan Bunten (Dani Bunten Berry) and Gary Grigsby. This collection, donated by company founder Joel Billings, includes internal records documenting the history of the company from 1979 through 1997, as well as information about other computer companies of the period.
Jordan Mechner Papers, 1913–2014
American video game designer, author, and filmmaker Jordan Mechner is best known for creating the popular Prince of Persia game franchise. He programmed two of his first published games—Karateka and Prince of Persia—almost entirely by himself, developing pioneering animation techniques to produce realistic movement from the games’ characters. The material in this collection documents his groundbreaking work on both of those games and also on The Last Express. Included are game design documents, notes, correspondence, development agreements, publicity, magazine articles, photographs, film, digital files, audio-visual media, source code disks, and other items. The bulk of the materials are from 1984 to 1999.
View the finding aid to the Jordan Mechner Papers.
Ken and Roberta Williams’ Sierra On-Line Collection, 1979–1996
Ken and Roberta Williams founded the Sierra On-Line computer game company in 1979 and developed it into one of the leading and most influential video game companies of the next two decades. Games they designed and produced ranked among the most popular of the era and included the first graphical computer adventure game, Mystery House; the first third-person graphical adventure game, King’s Quest; and dozens of other noted titles, such as The Black Cauldron, Mixed-Up Mother Goose, Leisure Suit Larry, Gabriel Knight, and Phantasmagoria. Included in this collection are design documents, artwork, press releases, annual reports, copies of the company magazine (InterAction), newspaper clippings, photographs, and other memorabilia.
Living Books Collection, 1987–2004
In the 1990s, Living Books was the leading producer of electronic interactive children’s books such as the CD-ROM versions of Grandma and Me and Green Eggs and Ham. A joint venture of Brøderbund and Random House, Living Books achieved tremendous success during the heyday of the CD-ROM and educational software markets. Jeff Schon, who served as CEO of Living Books from 1994–1997, donated this collection that includes extensive company business records, in-depth documentation of the software design process, and commercially produced games and other learning titles.
Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation (MECC) Collection, 1967–2015
From the 1970s to the 1990s, the Minnesota Education Computer Corporation (MECC) was the leading producer of educational computer games for the classroom. It produced the popular The Oregon Trail, as well as releasing numerous other games including Number Munchers and Lemonade Stand. More than any other company, MECC helped schools integrate educational games into classroom curricula, introducing many students to computers in the process. A group of former MECC employees—including founder and president Dale LaFrenz, The Oregon Trail co-creator Don Rawitsch, and vice president Susan Schilling—gathered and donated this collection that includes a wide range of documents, such as design drafts, training manuals, internal reports, videos, photographs, extensive press clippings, and internal reports describing the company’s policies, procedures, projects, and personnel.
Ralph H. Baer Papers, 1968–2010
Ralph H. Baer (1922–2014) invented the Brown Box prototype of Magnavox Odyssey—the first home video console—and contributed importantly to the development of commercial and educational electronic toys and games for four decades afterward. This extensive collection documents, in particular, his work with video game pioneer Jay Smith III, the toy design firm Marvin Glass and Associates, and toy and game designer Phillip E. Orbanes. Represented games and toys include Computer Perfection, Maniac, M.A.S.K. Laser Command, Smarty Bear, Sounds By Me, Simon, and numerous others licensed to firms such as Coleco, Ideal, Kenner, and Milton Bradley.
View the finding aid to the Ralph H. Baer Papers.
Steve Kordek Coin-Op and Amusements Collection, 1948-2004
One of the most prolific coin-operated game designers of the 20th century, Steve Kordek revolutionized pinball by designing Genco’s 1948 game Triple Action with the now standard two-flippers at the bottom of its playfield. Over his career, Kordek designed more than 100 pinball machines and introduced game innovations such as pinball’s first drop target on Williams’ 1962 game Vagabond. This collection includes hundreds of fliers, brochures, handouts, manuals, and catalogs for electromechanical games, pinball machines, redemption games, arcade video games, and other coin-operated amusements.
Will Wright Collection, 1990–2010
Will Wright, co-founder of the game development company Maxis, now part of Electronic Arts (EA), is best known for designing the video games series SimCity and The Sims. These papers consist chiefly of nine notebooks containing Wright’s original drawings, sketches, and notes for SimCity 2000, SimCopter, The Sims, and Spore. The materials illustrate how Wright brainstormed ideas, conceptualized play mechanics, and outlined presentations about the games.
Williams Pinball Playfield Design Collection, 1946–1994, 2015
Founded in 1943, Williams Manufacturing, Inc. (later Williams Electronics Games, Inc.) created some of the most innovative pinball machines and other coin-operated games in the second half of the 20th century. Consisting of more than 200 pinball playfield design sketches, this collection documents the evolution of playfield layouts and the thinking behind pinball machines such as Sunny, Williams’s first game with flippers; Vagabond, the first game to use a drop target; and the mini-playfield and ramp-filled game Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure. The playfield drawings feature the work of designers Harry Williams, Gordon Horlick, Sam Stern, Steve Kordek, Norm Clark, and Mark Ritchie, among others. Also included are hundreds of mechanical design drawings of parts assemblies, backbox inserts (which held lamps and scoring reels), and pinball concept artwork. The bulk of the sketches are for games created from 1947 through 1971.
Explore even more collections related to video and other electronic games in the archives catalog.
Oral History Projects
Over the years, The Strong has collected various oral history interviews of play-related topics, including recollections about the museum’s founder, Margaret Woodbury Strong; memories of dolls and other playthings; stories from former toy and game company staff members; and more. The Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play will make collections of these oral history projects accessible online to researchers as digitization occurs.
Significant materials include:
Parker Brothers Oral History Project collection
Transcripts are available from interviews conducted by Professor John J. Fox of Salem State College in 1986 as part of his research on the Parker Brothers Company of Salem, Massachusetts.
Doll Oral History Project collection
Transcripts and indexes are available from interviews conducted by consultant Dorothy Washburn for the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum for a grant-funded project in 1987.
Women in Games at The Strong
Photographs, audio recordings, and transcripts from the Women in Games events in 2018-2019 are available.
Much more detailed info about these projects is available on our Preservica-Universal Access page.