The toys from yesteryear will be sticking around the Brazos Valley just a little bit longer.
Star of the Republic Museum administered by Blinn College will keep its popular “Toy Time” exhibit open through Sept. 30 to meet the high demand for the popular folk toys that entertained generations of youngsters. The exhibit demonstrates basic scientific principles such as friction, gravity and momentum.
With the “Toy Time” exhibit in place, the museum has seen a 33 percent increase in attendance over last summer.
“The exhibit has been really well received by families and we’ve had a lot more children at the museum this summer, which is wonderful,” said Anne McGaugh, the museum’s curator of education. “This has brought more families through our door than any exhibit we’ve had in years.”
The hands-on nature of the exhibit makes it particularly attractive to children. Visitors are encouraged to play with the exhibit of 16 large-scale versions of popular historic folk toys from around the world, including “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Whimmy Diddle,” “Bird on a Pole,” “Acrobat,” “Tight Rope Walker” and “Pecking Chickens.” The toys from times gone by are crafted from wood and are reminiscent of traditional folk art.
While some of the designs date back as far as 300 years, these handcrafted versions stand as tall as six feet. Designed by craftsman and former furniture maker Tom Wilson of Museum Productions, the toys represent Wilson’s nearly 40-year hobby making folk toys for his children and friends.
“This is a highly interactive exhibit,” said Wilson, former exhibit director at SciWorks Science Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. “You’re pulling and jumping, and even if you’re not participating it’s fun to watch the kids. About 25 or 30 people can be physically involved with the exhibit at one time, so when a class comes through they can all participate.”
Wilson has exhibited the larger-than-life toys in Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina, but the Star of the Republic exhibit marks the first time he has taken “Toy Time” west of the Mississippi River. He said he wanted to create an exhibit that evokes a simpler period, when children could entertain themselves without video games and electricity.
“Nowadays it’s hard to find a toy that’s not electronic,” Wilson said. “When we get feedback, the kids tell us they’re skeptical at first, but they really enjoy themselves. These toys are just as fun now as they were 100 or 200 years ago.”