Community Development Director Tina Collins and Executive Director Jen Peters show off a display of Lincoln Logs sets from throughout the years.

Community Development Director Tina Collins and Executive Director Jen Peters show off a display of Lincoln Logs sets from throughout the years.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


‘Play at the Village’ explores history of toys, games

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published February 9, 2021

 An old game that is featured in the window of the General Store.

An old game that is featured in the window of the General Store.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Displays of dolls, action figures, stuffed animals and many other nostalgic toys from the past are on display at the Troy Historic Village for the “Play at the Village” exhibit.

Displays of dolls, action figures, stuffed animals and many other nostalgic toys from the past are on display at the Troy Historic Village for the “Play at the Village” exhibit.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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TROY — As a kid, most of us owned a favorite toy, or maybe it was a favorite game played with family. Maybe your favorite toy evolved as you grew, from Lincoln Logs to Legos, Beanie Babies to Barbies.

These are just a few of the nostalgia-charged toys and games you’ll see at “Play at the Village,” the Troy Historic Village’s latest exhibit, a self-guided tour down memory lane to some favorite childhood pastimes.

The exhibit opened Feb. 1 and runs 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays through April 30. After-hours guided toy tours are available upon request. Reservations can be made at 15-minute intervals.

Village Executive Director Jen Peters said the idea came together when they were thinking to do a train exhibit, then a doll exhibit, and finally a “Why not a little bit of everything?” exhibit, she said.

“We thought having a lot of different toys would be a great conversation starter, something to break up your days,” she said.

The exhibit features more than a thousand items, many of which came directly from the basements and childhood bedrooms of village staff members, volunteers and board members.

As you begin the tour in the village’s log cabin, peering into the lives and play of children 100 years ago, the exhibit invites visitors to spark up their own conversations about the toys they remember as a kid. But as you continue through to the Caswell House and the General Store, you’re met with deeper conversations of toys’ representation though history.

“We have the real simple conversations, which are, ‘I had this baby doll;’ ‘I played with that toy,’” Peters said. “With toys like dolls and stuffed animals, some of the hard conversations (come out) too. Representation is one of those things you can dig into with toys. Who’s represented in dolls and who isn’t? Gender issues are something you can look into (too).”

Peters admitted that even in configuring the exhibit pieces she realized the exhibit lacked representation when it came to dolls of color. “We don’t have that ourselves, so I have to go find that, and I’ll add to (the exhibit) and try to do a better job, like we all should,” she said.

Representation and gender aren’t the only topics visitors will find throughout the exhibit. The exhibit takes visitors on a field trip through the Poppleton School to see how students have played at school throughout history — who remembers four square? Anyone? The exhibit also explores the engineering and manufacturing of toys, the advertising of toys through Sears Catalog archives, and modern board games like “Monopoly.”

“That’s the fun thing. It’s accessible through all ages and generations. I love the ideas that it’s a conversation starter,” Peters said.

Village Community Development Director Tina Collins hopes the questions posed around the exhibit and that visitors will share together could help close some generational gaps within families. “I think they realize that they’re really not that different,” she said.

As visitors walk through the exhibit, they’ll see the games and toys they knew as kids, but what they may not see is another hidden game within the exhibit itself. Exhibit curators have placed a silver thimble in each exhibit building for visitors to find. After completing the exhibit, visitors will receive their own thimble to take home.

An interactive online portion of the exhibit is also in the works, Peters said. In the final building, Town Hall, visitors will be able to write and hang their thoughts and memories from the exhibit for others to see.

With movie theaters and several other businesses in the entertainment industry shuttered for the better part of a year, Collins believes people are actively seeking this type of entertainment.

“I think people are so starved with getting culture and entertainment,” she said. “We’re seeing more people wanting to come out to the village, because I think they’re seeing what we’re doing is really educational and entertaining.”

Peters agrees we’ve all been isolated this year. This exhibit, for her, is about reigniting the connections you may have lost along the way. “Even if you’re not coming together to see it, it goes home with you. It will continue the conversation at home,” she said.

For more information, visit troyhistoricvillage.org.

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