Friday, August 14, 2009

Joining the Museum Circus

Wow, so many cool things are happening at the Museum lately! Just yesterday morning, we debuted an amazing new display under the “Big Top” at the admissions desk. The exhibit was designed by AmeriCorps Museum Educators Melissa Kline and Miranda Elliott Rader, using a selection of antique tin toys from the Museum’s collection.
The toys were donated by Dr. Vincent Pattavina of Braintree, MA in 2007. Although we’re referring to them as “tin toys” (their collectors’ category), they’re actually a combination of metal (some cloth covered), felt and cardboard – and many of them are wind-up toys and move in interesting ways. Most were manufactured in Germany in the late 1940s and early 1950s – some of them are actually labeled as “US Zone Germany” – and others were made in “Occupied Japan,” so clearly there’s a lot of history here.

Melissa and Miranda decided on a creative circus theme, with a musical parade of clowns and creatures headed down from the mountains to join the circus. They’re mostly mammals, including several mice doing acrobatic tricks – and you’ll have to bend down to kid height to see some of the surprises they have in store! There’s also a colorful snail preparing to jump through a flaming hoop, a beautiful boat carousel, seals balancing balls on their noses, and “Happy the Violinist,” a favorite of our two designers.
The whole display is breathtakingly beautiful – colorful, textured, playful, and clearly done with much attention to detail. It’s been really fun to watch Melissa and Miranda work on this for the past several weeks:

combing through the collection to select the toys and figure out their arrangement
painting the mountain backdrop
sewing silky circus curtains
and spending hours installing the case Wednesday night, including hanging the trapeze-artist mice with fishing wire – a delicate procedure!

It is truly fantastic – be sure to get down and really check it out next time you visit the Museum!

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