Iconic toys evoke childhood memories | Australian Toy Hall of Fame

DO you remember those days of marble competitions at school when kids played 'for keeps', and that was perfectly acceptable or long, summer holidays of backyard cricket, possibly with a home-made cricket bat?

What about slingshots, tea sets, wind-up toys and skittles?

Do such toys play through your childhood memories; and have you ever wished you could transport nose-in-the-digital-gadget grandchildren back to that era to show them play that was far more real and not at all virtual?

Well, now you can.

Redland Museum delivered a first for not only the bayside but also for Australia when it recently opened the Australian Toy Hall of Fame, showcasing historic toys that have made a significant impact on children's play throughout the years, and no one is more excited than museum president Ross Bower.

"About four years ago we had a temporary exhibition that lasted a year, at the front of the gallery," Ross said.

"It was an interactive children's area.

"We called it History Street and it was very successful, but we needed the space so we had to dismantle it for other displays.

"So when I was writing the requirements for the new building, I wanted a space available, dedicated to children, for children's activities and children's memorabilia."

Ross said he especially wanted the children's area, as it was important for children to discover museum items with which they could identify.

"Museums are not all about old things for old people," he said.

"There has to be something for children as well.

"They are the ones who are going to take care of our heritage in the future and we have to get them involved from a young age."

Ross said the Australian Toy Hall of Fame included static displays of historic toys, with brief, written histories of each toy plus extended notes for researchers and other interested people, plus inter-active areas with exhibits, scenes and activities for "children, their parents and their grandparents to have fun".

He said the interactive area included child-sized versions of an Australian rural store and rural Queenslander-style cubby house, each with a historic telephone on which children could call and speak with each other between buildings, and a historic-themed theatre stage.

The interactive area also houses a couch for adults to rest on while children play, bookshelves filled with story books, games and toys, craft tables and chairs, and more.

Workshops in which children could learn about historical toys through guided play and make their own historical games were also planned.

Ross said the museum had wanted the static displays to be more than just "ordinary displays of old toys", which prompted the decision to set up the hall of fame.

"This is not just a random collection of toys," he said.

"The hall of fame's purpose is to recognise, celebrate and display the iconic toys that have played a significant and enduring role in the lives of Australian children over the generations."

He said the museum committee had chosen a small selection of toys for an initial induction into the Australian Toy Hall of Fame.

They include marbles, Meccano sets, teddy bears, miniature cars, toy trains, jigsaw puzzles, Little Golden Books, spinning tops, tea sets, wooden blocks, Lego and dolls, with other toys, including skipping ropes, toy soldiers, billy carts and more, marked for possible future induction.

Ross said members of the public, from anywhere in Australia, would, in due course, be able to nominate toys for induction into the hall of fame, with the definition of 'toy' being quite broad.

"Our definition of a toy includes any item commercially manufactured as a toy; a homemade toy; an object made for another purpose, but adopted by children as a toy, such as bicycle wheels and cardboard boxes; a natural object adopted by children for play, including sticks, rocks, knuckle bones for jacks; a child's game; jigsaw puzzles; and a favourite children's book or series of children's books," he said.

"They don't have to have been Australian made, but they do have to have been popular in Australia."

Ross said the criteria for selection, in addition to the nominated toy having been popular, was that the use of the toy must also have endured across multiple generations and it must evoke special memories of childhood.

"The toys can go right back to pre-European history indigenous toys if we can identify some of those.

"It can be any period of time so long as the toy lasted over multiple generations.

"Some toys come and go.

"They're popular this year and then you can't get them again; others last and last."

While the museum has a number of historic toys in its collection, Ross said more were needed and he called for toy donations.

"I'm hoping people will contribute toys to us," he said.

"What we have in our collection is fairly limited and we would like to display more variety.

"I'm hoping people will look in their closets and if they have historic toys, bring them in and offer them to us.

"This museum will be the best way to ensure toys are preserved for future generations.

"Bring them to us and will put them on display, preserved for the future and shared by generations to come."

To donate toys, or for further information about the Australian Toy Hall of Fame, contact the museum on 3286 3494.

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