13Toys are part of our culture reflecting the values and trends in society. The temporary exhibit “Let’s Play! A Time Warp to Toys of the Past” at the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex chronicles the development of toys and play as they accompanied the emergence of modern childhood.

Toys can tell an interesting story about how kids grew up in America. Megan Maxwell, the exhibit curator, says that the exhibit will show that despite differences in economic background, race, ethnicity and culture — things all children have in common are toys and play.

“The concept for this exhibit began with just a small group of toys that I found in the Museum collections room,” Maxwell said. “We thought it would be fun to do a toy exhibit for the summer since so many families visit the Museum during summer break. While there are toys representing many decades, I think kids of the ‘60s, 70s and 80s will be the most excited to see what we have on display. Toys are a universal language, and this exhibit will appeal to people of all ages and all walks of life.”

Maxwell says the key to play is imagination.

Highlights of the exhibit include rare tin lithograph mechanical toys, original Kenner Star Wars figures and handmade Black dolls that reflect the journey of Black Americans from enslavement through reconstruction and beyond.

Many of the toys in the exhibit were donated by several local individuals.
One of the stories told in the exhibit tells of Cassandra McMillion. There is a picture of 3-year-old McMillion holding her favorite toy, Sally. The picture was taken sometime around 1945. Sally was a sawdust/bisque porcelain doll. McMillion’s story is displayed next to the Handmade Black Dolls section of the exhibit.

The exhibit is also interactive for kids and adults who are “kids at heart.” Visitors can play along as they travel through the exhibit by giving the color wheel a spin and moving to the matching game circles on the floor.

Visitors can pose in a life-size Barbie box or stand in front of the Star Wars galaxy backdrop for a fun photo souvenir.

The exhibit is currently open at the Museum and will run through Sept. 4. This exhibit was funded by the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex Foundation. The museum is run under the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. They work with a vision to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in the state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina.

In creating the exhibit, the North Carolina Museum of History staff assisted our local museum with technical and design assistance.

The Museum of the Cape Fear is located on the corner of Bradford and Arsenal Avenues in Fayetteville.
Admission to the Museum and the exhibit is free. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. through 5 p.m.

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