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Potsdam museum remembers playtimes past with Toyland

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POTSDAM — Toyland has arrived at the Potsdam Public Museum, an exhibit capturing favorite playthings of days gone by just in time for Christmas

“Toyland: A Century of Fun” opened Friday.

The exhibit covers almost a century of classic toys, from a 19th-century rocking horse to Star Wars action figures from the 1970s.

Museum Director Mimi VanDeusen said the idea first came when she was trying to decide what the museum should do for its holiday show.

“Toys would be fun for kids and adults, and it would be kind of a multigenerational pull,” she said.

The adults who visit the exhibit can enjoy the nostalgia of seeing the toys they owned as a child, while children can get a look at playthings that have not been on store shelves for years.

The toys are not part of the museum’s archives. Instead, the call went out to area residents to lend their old toys, and the community responded.

Cowboys and robots, Snow White’s dwarves and Raggedy Ann, model trains and board games, all have a place in the exhibit, which will remain in the museum until spring.

Many of the owners wrote short descriptions of the items they were donating, either providing historical information or recalling their own experiences with their favorite toys.

“Toys have a way of bringing back memories,” docent Marsha-Lee “Mickey” Champagne said.

Ms. Champagne said the holiday season is the perfect time to roll out the exhibit, which showcases items that may have been wrapped and placed beneath trees in generations past.

“Christmas is the season for children,” Ms. Champagne said.

Even many adults are still children at heart, she said, who keep their old toys as a way of connecting with their past.

Ms. VanDeusen said toys are a constant presence throughout all of history.

“Toys have been around for as long as human beings have been around,” she said.

Archaeological digs at ancient sites reveal dolls and balls, toys that are still recognizable when compared to those enjoyed by children today.

“A lot has changed, but a lot of these ideas have stayed the same,” Ms. Van Deusen said.

The toys will return to their owners once the exhibit ends.

The museum is providing tours of the exhibit to schoolchildren this week and next, along with storytime and craft projects.

Ms. Champagne mentioned the physical and creative elements of many old toys, which encouraged children to stay active and inquisitive.

“There’s so much for children to learn and spark their imagination,” she said.

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