I love museums of all kinds: art, science, ethnology, history. And while I truly appreciate the big famous venues, I have a special place in my heart for small unheralded museums. Most of all I love a museum which perfectly reflects the gestalt of the collection. Rather than the traditional neutral role that most museums play in relationship to their collections, these little anachronistic gems become works of art themselves. Their very beings are so intertwined with their holdings that collection and museum become one.
Just such a gem is the Pollock’s Toy Museum in the heart of London. Currently under the directorship of the grandson of the museum founder, Marguerite Fawdry, Pollock’s began its life not as a museum, but as the workshop and store for Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Theaters. Mr. Pollock hand painted and constructed these popular Victorian paper entertainments. The museum, which was founded in 1956 on the premises of the toy theater shop ( at a different location than where the Pollock Toy Museum is today), has many of the original paper theaters in its holdings. The collection has been augmented with Victorian through 1950’s era toys.
Stepping into the museum I wanted to pinch myself to see if I had fallen asleep on the couch reading Dickens and was dreaming up my surroundings. The deeply satisfying, thickly layered paint of the red and green walls, doors and stairwell drew me into the space with a magnetic, slow motion kind of pull. After paying my 6 pounds to the ticket taker, who beckoned forward, I found myself pleasingly alone in this twisty-turny multi-roomed museum.
Up the steps, slowly, slowly, every inch another treasure to admire:
And then the individual rooms! Oh! Categorized and organized, but not too organized.
Stuffed with playthings, some just so barely brushing up against my own childhood that I wondered if my siblings would rush in and snatch the vision away and say these were their toys.
But, no, we’d been taught to share, so all was well. I could relax and drink it in.
And send myself backwards and forwards in time, at the same instant.
and marvel over how certain it once had been that some toys were for BOYS ONLY. I was happy that my brother’s Meccano set, a favorite of all of us kids, had not had this definitive labeling by the time it was manufactured for my era.
One of the things I love about the Pollock collection is how used the objects are. Chosen for being loved rather than for being in pristine condition.
The doll room showed this most of all.
And yes, the doll creep factor is in full swing in the doll room. This doll and the next could easily be responsible for the invention of the night light.
Not hard to come up with a story for this pair, Constance and Geraldine, siblings trapped together for eternity, their individual personalities becoming sharper over the decades. Geraldine, always the confident one, has become insufferable, and Constance, well, poor thing, by now she’s just a shell of her former self.
Chastity could never go outside to play because she could not risk getting grass stains on her outfit.
And no wonder she dressed this way. This was her mother–no fun at all!
Here’s the look on Tildy’s face after her brother told her she most definitely could NOT play with his Meccano set.
It was embarrassing going out with Gertrude. She didn’t seem to understand she was making a spectacle of herself. She never seemed to notice that folks were pointing at her and whispering to each other.
Ah, that Lucinda! She’s been caught stuffing sugar cubes in her cheeks again.
Mary Ella is the perfect child when her parents are at home. But as soon as they leave for the evening she throws wild parties that start with Spin the Bottle and then proceed to much, much worse activities.
And these two kids, there’s a reason why they look, well, so disturbed…
All their furniture is made with BONES!
Time to go! Back down the stairs, past all those games there was never enough time for. (Yes, I CAN end on a preposition if I want to!)