Rogers Historical Museum plays up the fun of favorite toys

Rogers Historical Museum plays up the fun of favorite toys

There is no Barbie doll in the “Toys Well Played” exhibit just opened at the Rogers Historical Museum.

But there is something equally historic — a Mitzi doll, which Jennifer Kick describes as “a rare copycat of Barbie that was only made for one year between 1961 and 1962” by the Ideal Toy Corp.

It was pure serendipity that allowed the museum to catch a corner seat on the Barbie bandwagon.

“We plan out our exhibit schedule about two years in advance, so the fortunate timing with the release of ‘Barbie’ [the movie] is entirely accidental but very exciting for us,” says Kick, who is collections manager for the museum. “We have a pretty decent number of toys in the collections. So, when we were planning out exhibits, I had thought that it would be fun to showcase a lot of these toys since they don’t very easily fit into other exhibit topics — and toys are just so fun to look at and learn about!”

Trying to plan the exhibit meant trying to keep her colleagues on track in meetings, Kick says, and it was a challenge.

“Whether it was a toy we are showcasing, or a toy that we simply mentioned in passing while discussing research, we all kept reminiscing about our favorites growing up, where we got our toys, toy commercials we remember, TV shows about toys we loved,” Kick says. “It goes on and on. Probably the toy that got the most ‘oh, I had one of these!’ reactions during the selection process meeting was the troll doll.”

Asked to name favorites, Kick chooses a handmade “potato doll,” recently donated to the museum.

“It’s my favorite because a year ago I did a behind-the-scenes tour of collections for our Rogers Explorers summer program here, and a girl named Ava was on that tour and heard me talking about needing more items like toys from the 1970s and 1980s in our collections,” Kick explains. “Some time later she was looking at this doll with her dad and realized since she didn’t want it anymore, and we needed toys from this time period, she wanted to donate it to the museum. So that toy is my favorite on display because it makes me so happy to know that we can have an impact on our visitors like that.”

Kick’s colleagues, however, all have different answers:

Ashley Sayers, education manager and co-designer of this exhibit: Her favorite is the Cabbage Patch doll because it reminds her of the one she had as a child. The doll’s name was Delores, and she went everywhere with Ashley, and Ashley’s mom would make custom clothes for Delores.

Jen Sweet, operations coordinator: Likes the Wonder Horse because she remembers playing on one as a child.

Rebecca Musteen Johnson, visitor assistant: The Mr. Potato Head because she remembers playing with the original kit that required an actual potato — and she says sometimes it got messy!

Serena Barnett, museum director: The miniature Steiff Teddy bear, because she has had a love of Teddy bears and miniatures since she was a kid. She also has a Steiff bear given to her as a child by her grandmother. She remembers being told how special it was and was so happy her mother would trust her to handle it whenever she wanted to see it, so she thinks of her family and happy childhood whenever she sees a Steiff bear.

Glen Christophersen, education assistant: His favorite is the little Steiff cat, as it was the first thing that caught his eye when he walked into the gallery after we were done installing the exhibit. He also likes how lifelike it manages to look. Despite its age, it looks just like a cuddly little kitten.

Kick says finding a common thread among the items in the exhibit was just as difficult as collectively choosing a favorite.

“With most of our exhibits, there is a through line of Rogers history that everything can kind of connect back to, but not this one,” she says. “For every toy that was donated, there was an incredibly unique story. One toy would be purchased at the Racket Store because it was cheap, and it was clearly played with every day. Another toy was more high-end and was clearly treated carefully as it almost looks brand new despite being nearly 60 years old.

“There just wasn’t a common experience I could tie everything back to. And that became the story. I just put everyone’s memories into this exhibit to showcase the unique lived experiences everyone shares with us when they decide to donate their items.”

Kick says she’s filled the Collections Gallery too full for a hands-on component to the exhibit, but “I like to consider our two children’s play areas the hands-on opportunity as kids can go play with some vintage toys in Grandma’s Attic or go to the Children’s Gallery and learn through play, as we touch on in the exhibit. We did create a little ‘eye spy’ activity for people to do in the exhibit. It’s not hands on, but it is a fun little game to play while looking at what we have on display.”


‘Toys Well Played’

WHEN — 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, through Jan. 13

WHERE — Rogers Historical Museum, 313 S. Second St. in Rogers

COST — Free

INFO — or 621-1154


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Categories: Family Friendly