Before there was Minecraft, playtime was shaped by analog blocks, bricks, and other objects.
From blocks to logs to connecting gears, construction toys are an unequivocal childhood stepping stone. Made from metal, wood, plastic, composite, and even paper, the best among them have transcended time for one reason: They work. That’s according to Sarah Leavitt, curator at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., whose job includes overseeing the institution’s collection of more than 2,000 architectural toys.
In 2006, the museum acquired a stock of 2,252 architectural toys from an amateur toy collector in Illinois. Currently, 38 of them are displayed in the museum’s Play Work Build exhibition. In total, the collection contains more than 260,000 bits and parts, which have been inventoried and are now in the process of being cataloged by hand.
Earlier this month, ARCHITECT was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the closed-off archive. Though we couldn’t play with the toys, we were guided by Leavitt and museum registrar Nancy Bateman through a sampling of artifacts that have helped define the American childhood experience for more than a century.
Credit: Mike Basher
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