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L.A. Beat

Fond memories of toys and games at Galt Museum

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Everybody has their own memories of their favourite toys and  games from their childhood.
“My favourite toy growing up was space Lego,” enthused Galt Museum employee Kevin Maclean,  proudly indicating a Lego space ship he donated in a case next to a Meccano set, a game of Twister and a Tonka dirt mover. He is proud to say he was so obsessed with playing with Lego that when his parents wanted to ground him, they took his Lego away.Anine Vonkeman plays witha  Blackfoot bone toss game. Photo by Richard Amery

His spaceship is one of over 60 toys and games donated by community members on display in the Galt Museum’s new exhibit, “Toys and Games,” which officially opened Oct. 1 and runs until Jan. 8.

 There are 130 artifacts on display including numerous items from the Galt Museum’s extensive collection as well as 60 others on loan from  community members and  Medicine Hat’s Esplande Museum.

“We wanted to look at what we gain from playing rather than just having artifacts,” said curator Wendy Aitkens. The items were chosen according to how they affect people’s lives.

“When I was growing up on the farm in the ’70s, our TV only had  three channels, but there was Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers and Star Trek reruns. So whoever came up with marketing a space themed Lego series was a marketing genius,” MacLean said.

“And they changed a lot in three years. The original space lego were just the original blocks,” he continued.

He said the instruction manuals that came with Lego kits  were an important learning tool for children, who had to learn to follow directions for the kit to turn out right.

“We learn from playing right from the beginning. When a baby shakes a rattle, it not only learns how to move their fingers, but that they can make noise too,” Aitkens said adding free play time, that is play not determined by a schedule like  school, play school and after school activities, is important for children because it encourages them to  use their imaginations, not to mention learn problem solving skills.

“If they are playing a game with others, like Scrabble, they have to learn how to problem solve and communicate, like by saying that word doesn’t exist,” Aitkens said.

 Galt staff chose a broad cross section of artifacts for the exhibit — educational games like Scrabble and Monopoly, older toys,  computer games, Barbie dolls and action figures, First Nations toys, Japanese toys and Chinese toys.
A  replica of a Blackfoot Bone Toss game is one of the toys patrons will be able to play with.

“It teaches children how to become hunters. It not only tests hand-to-eye co-ordination and it teaches them to do their maths because the triangles in the middle are worth different points,” explained  Elder Blanche Bruisedhead, who donated the item, which is reminiscent of the popular ’50s rubber ball and cup toy. She remembered a little red wagon being her favourite toy.

Wendy Aitkens stands next to a Kinect Tuner computer game. Photo By Richard Amery
Roger Bruinsma, a former professional skateboarder and former owner of Boarderline, donated an old ’50s skateboard to the exhibit.
“I bought it at a garage sale for less than five  dollars,” he said adding it is pretty primitive even compared to his first skateboard which he bought in Hawaii in the ’70s.

“You can see someone just nailed the wheels for a pair of roller skates to the board,” he said, while his son Fawkes Marquis plays in one of the play stations on the floor.

“They are a lot more functional now,” he said.

The most popular toys will be tracked on the Galt Museum website. Patrons will each receive a marble, which they can put into a  slot next to their favourite case in the exhibit.  There will even be play areas,in which patrons can actually play.

“We didn’t  think it was fair to put all of these fun toys behind glass with a sign that says  ‘don’t touch.’ It will be fun for people of all ages. There is a toy for everybody,” Aitkens continued.
 In addition to several displays of toys  from many years ago to modern computer games and interactive displays, there  will also be images from old toy catalogues on the walls, costumes and much more.
The Galt Museum opened the exhibit with their  community day, Oct. 1 to introduce the public to the new exhibit with a variety of activities  including a giant game of Snakes and Ladders complete with a massive foam die designed by university students and local artists, plus a Teddy Bear Hospital and much more.
 The exhibit runs until Jan. 8.

 A version of this article appears in the Oct. 5, 2011 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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