6! Fascinating Toy Museums in the US

By Katrina Oliver

The Toy Museum of New York

Once a stationary museum, the Toy Museum of New York now travels to bring its educational programs and exhibits directly to the public.

The Toy Museum offers events and live performances educating children and adults alike on the subjects such as the history of toys, toy invention, hands-on play-based learning, and acting.

Those wishing to experience the Toy Museum of New York can bring them into a school or public space to perform one of their programs, take a virtual field trip to see their collections of antique toys, or see one of their award-winning films.

The Toy Shop at Shelburne Museum

Within the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT is the Toy Shop, an exhibit that is housed in its own building at the museum with antique dolls, toys, and playthings.

The exhibit shows beautiful antique dolls and dollhouses, 19th and 20th century working toy trains, mechanical automata toys, and cast-iron banks.

Visitors love getting a chance to operate an antique model train set and see how children of the past played.

The museum features several other exhibits that offer chances for hands-on play with antique and antique-style toys like dress-up clothes, play kitchens, and blocks.

Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys

The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys is home to more than 20,000 objects dating back as far as 1680(!!!).

Housing a variety of pieces such as vintage Star Wars toys, antique Japanese Friendship Dolls, artisan dollhouses, and original Bugs Bunny comic books.

The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys annually hosts programs and events for collectors, such as the “Little” Show, which showcases miniatures and offers workshops to artists who are looking to learn the craft.

They also host workshops to learn about crafting and toy events for children to come to the museum to play and create.

The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York is a part of the interactive collections-based educational institution known as The Strong and features an incredible variety of toys and games.

Visitors can explore the collections of toys or visit the museum’s interactive exhibits.

The museum even offers exhibitions of video games, esports, and digital play media for those interested in more modern toys and play.

The Strong National Museum of Play is also host to the National Toy Hall of Fame, where classic toys are inducted annually and recognized for inspiring creative play, innovating the field of play, and remaining popular with children throughout history.

Inductees include Barbie, jump rope, Matchbox cars, and dollhouses.

Philadelphia Doll Museum

The Philadelphia Doll Museum is unique in its dedication to the collection and preservation of black dolls as historical artifacts.

The museum displays the dolls for educational purposes not just as a way of seeing how those in times past viewed dolls, toys, and play, but also how the cultural perspectives of black people have changed over the years through the lens of the dolls made of them.

The Philadelphia Doll Museum also hosts the Philadelphia Doll Society, which is a club dedicated to forming a community for doll makers and collectors.

They host a variety of doll making workshops, including educating children and adults alike on historical methods of doll making like paper and clothespin dolls.

National Toy Train Museum

Train enthusiasts will love the National Toy Train Museum, located in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.

Featuring one of the most extensive toy train collections in the world, there are both tabletop model trains as well as rideable trains available for viewing at the museum.

Visitors get to control the train layouts themselves and play train conductor!

The museum is run by the Train Collectors Association, which coordinates meetups for tinplate train collectors, operators, and enthusiasts.

Members even lend their own personal collections to the museum for display to help create beautiful seasonal exhibits for guests to enjoy.

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