Medicine Hat Media

A Century of Toys in New Museum Exhibit

Terra Rogowski wrote in with:

The Esplanade Museum opened a new exhibition yesterday that features a century of classic toys from 1880 to 1980.

Playful Revelations uncovers the stories behind a century of classic toys, like Teddy Bears, Meccano®, and Mr. Potato Head, as well as some toys that are unique to Medicine Hat. The accompanying text helps visitors explore what these toys say about the social conditions during which they were made, and how they contributed to the social development of our society.

“Toys are a child’s ‘tools of the trade’ in learning how the world works, so we wanted to pay homage to their contribution in shaping our society into what you see today,” says Tim McShane, Curatorial Assistant with the Esplanade Museum.

Most of the toys featured in the exhibition are selected from the Esplanade Museum’s collection of more than 25,000 artefacts. Curatorial Assistant Tim McShane spent the past two years selecting and researching the toys for the exhibition. This included interviewing artefact donors and toy collectors, and even studying a bit of sociology to understand the toys’ impact.

“The toys were selected for a variety of reasons. Some, like Barbie® and Star Wars®, were just too iconic to leave out; others, like the Monopoly® board with local street names, had a strong connection to the local area; and some were just so impressive that they needed to be shown!” explains McShane. “Overall, the toys were selected based on what they reflect of the sociological conditions prevalent when they were made.”

“Visitors are used to seeing traveling exhibitions in our Heritage Gallery; that is, exhibitions that are curated in other Museums but brought in for Medicine Hat residents to enjoy,” says Donny White, Curator of Cultural History at the Esplanade. “Playful Revelations is different because it contains our very own artefacts from the collection held in public trust for our residents, and we’re very proud of Tim McShane for curating an exhibition that exposes these artefacts to the public.”

Playful Revelations: Toys 1880 – 1980 is on display in the Esplanade Heritage Gallery until Oct. 18, 2009. The Opening Reception is Thurs., July 9, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. in the Gallery Foyer. There is no charge to attend the reception and everyone is welcome.

Special programmes are planned to complement the exhibition including a party for Barbie’s 50th Birthday (Aug. 22), a Teddy Bear’s Picnic (Sept. 12), and a special talk about “The Secret History of Toys” (Oct. 14). More information can be found on the Esplanade website at

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