Friday, September 12, 2008
Hmm...What Do We Value?
While in Rochester, I attended a reception at the Strong National Museum of Play. I hadn't visited the museum in a very long time and I was curious to see the changes. I came away a little perturbed at what I saw in, what admittedly, was a fairly quick viewing, and one done without any kids there.
What bothered me? It really made me think about values. From what I can see, the Strong Museum values plastic and brand names. It felt like a giant temple to consumerism. When you looked at cases, you couldn't tell if they were exhibition or gift shop cases...they were all filled with brand name merchandise. I wanted some acknowledgement that, in American life, there are many, many, people who make do without giant piles of plastic toys to entertain their children. The corrugated cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong, but that sort of inventiveness and sense of unstructured play did not seem much on display here. I also wanted a greater recognition that there's an incredibly diverse America whose play traditions could be represented.
And that plastic...is there some way to do this differently, so we could teach kids a bit about recycling, or reusing, or saving...not just purchasing?
I'd love to hear from others about what they--and their kids--think of the Strong. I did hear from several people that their kids, when younger, loved it.
The Strong, to their credit, also values reading--books are everywhere, and cleanliness...the place is spotless. And in spite of, or perhaps because of, all these different values, the Strong Museum has done what few museums actually pull off. They said they were going to change the mission, change the way the museum does business, and change the audience--and that people would come. That's a familiar song, but this museum actually made it happen...but did they sell out to do so?
Above: No images from the Strong Museum, just images from the Norris family archive, of play, with little or no plastic or brand names.