Have you ever heard the phrase that when you’re wealthy, you’re a collector but when you’re poor you’re a hoarder?
Once upon a time there was a very wealthy woman named Margaret Woodbury Strong. Given the amount of literature I have read about her over the course of the last few weeks, I could probably write you a(nother) thesis about her story and the story of her museum. But here is the short version – Margaret loved to collect, she died and left an unusually large sum of money to a group of people in charge of deciding whether or not to use that money to open a museum, they did, it didn’t do so hot, they re-envisioned the museum, again, and again, and again. Fast forward to the present and you have The Strong. It may be one building but it encompasses five play partners: the National Museum of Play, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the International Center for History of Electronic Games, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play, and the American Journal of Play. This week while in Rochester, my colleagues and I learned about them ALL! Phew!
The Strong has re-envisioned its mission and gone from a decorative arts based institution to a museum all about the study and exploration of play. My classmates and I were able to tour the facilities, meet with the President and other upper-level staff members, as well as take some time out to PLAY!
Two of my classmates take test out the interactives in the Field of Play exhibit. The Strong includes a library, preschool, archives, and plenty of exhibit space for visitors to venture into.
One of the museum’s most popular exhibits, Reading Adventure Land, lets visitors become part of their favorite mystery novels and fairy tales from their youth.
Example A: Myself as Cinderella!
“Book Nooks” of reading materials were present in all the exhibits. The Strong collaborated with the local library system to allow visitors to check out books and return them to any local library. How cool! What a great example of two informal educational institutions banding together to promote literacy!
Last stop for the butterfly garden – where we were introduced to over 150 varieties of butterflies. The Strong offers experiences for all types of learners and seems to make the ordinary, extraordinary!
It may have been a marathon day, but it was surely a successful one! I recommend this institution for families, museum professionals, and educators alike – it’s truly an experience and not one to miss.